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Various strains of meningococcal bacteria cause a rare disease either by “blood poisoning” (septicaemia) and/or “meningitis” (infection of the membranes around the brain), both of which are potentially fatal.

Meningococci are transmitted by droplet aerosol or secretions from the nasopharynx of colonised persons. Close and prolonged contact – e.g. kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters, sharing eating/drinking utensils – facilitates the spread of the bacteria. The bacteria attach to and multiply on the mucosal cells of the nasopharynx. It is believed that 10–20 per cent of the population carries meningitis bacteria at any given time. In a small number (less than 1 per cent) of colonised persons, the organism penetrates the mucosal cells and enters the bloodstream causing disease as above.

Meningitis B* and ACWY vaccines are fully funded for NZ residents aged 13–25 years entering college accommodation.

* also fully funded for those students already in college accomodation until 28/2/2024

We strongly recommend all students, particularly those living in residential colleges, be vaccinated against meningococcal disease before coming to Dunedin. Historically, there are at least one or two cases among students at the University of Otago annually. Vaccination will provide very good levels of protection but unfortunately there is not a single vaccine that covers all meningitis strains.

Three injections are required to provide optimal protection against current circulating strains of meningococcal disease: two of the meningitis B vaccine, which are usually  eight weeks apart, and one of the meningitis ACWY vaccine.

For information regarding meningococcal disease and vaccines available, visit:

Meningococcal disease (including meningitis), Ministry of Health website

No vaccine is ever 100 per cent guaranteed to protect against disease. It is important that people who have symptoms suggestive of meningococcal disease or are seriously ill access medical care as soon as possible. Friends and flatmates should be ready to look after each other and know how to access urgent health care.

For more information about vaccine charges:

How much does it cost at Student Health?

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