A free, time-limited vaccine program for all gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Victoria will begin next week to combat a recent outbreak of Meningococcal C disease.

Victoria's deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said the free vaccine will be available from next Monday, December 11 until June 30, 2018.

"Since May 2017 there has been an outbreak of meningococcal C infection, with eight cases identified across Melbourne, almost all in men who have sex with men (MSM) MSM, with evidence of local transmission," Dr Sutton said.

"MSM receiving the vaccine will be protected against the C strain of the disease, as well as three other strains - A, W and Y - which are also on the rise in Victoria.

"Although uncommon, meningococcal disease can become life-threatening very quickly.

"In 10 per cent of cases meningococcal disease proves to be fatal with death occurring within 24-48 hours of diagnosis.

"Of those who survive the disease, around 20 per cent of people are left with a permanent disability, such as brain damage or the loss of fingers, toes or limbs.

"It is important that all MSM are protected against this disease, however HIV positive MSM in Victoria are particularly at risk of contracting this disease and should seriously consider taking up the offer of the free vaccination.

"My message to this group in the community is simple: If you are vaccinated, you protect yourself and others around you by reducing the spread of the disease," Dr Sutton said.

All MSM, regardless of HIV status, especially those who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men met should get protected against this potentially deadly disease. Those in relationships or meeting online or through apps, bars, clubs or parties are all at risk.

It is important that MSM be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek medical attention immediately if they feel unwell.

A Chief Health Officer's Alert has been issued about this vaccination campaign and includes instructions to GPs about providing the vaccine and requesting them to bulk bill patients to maximise access to this important public health initiative.

The free vaccine will be available to eligible gay and bisexual men and MSM through general practice (GP) clinics and other registered immunisation providers. Call your practice and let them know you wish to receive the vaccine when you book in.

Further information is available on the Better Health Channel.

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