Rationale and eligibility
Why has the free vaccine program been introduced?
Cases of meningococcal disease are on the rise.
In recent years, the meningococcal W strain has increased across Australia, and it is now one of the predominant strains in Victoria, increasing from a single case of the ‘W’ strain in 2013, to 48 cases in 2016. In 2017, there were 36 cases of meningococcal W.
There has also been a recent increase in cases of meningococcal Y strain with 17 cases in 2017, compared to nine in 2015.
Although uncommon, meningococcal disease can become life-threatening very quickly.
View the Chief Health Officer Advisory: Update: Increase in Meningococcal W disease in Victoria
Why has the 15 and 16 year old cohort been chosen?
Young people in this age group are more likely to spread the disease to others, by offering a free vaccination to this age group, we can help protect the wider community by reducing the spread of the disease. Immunisation experts have advised that immunising this age group can prevent spread to other age groups.
Who is eligible to receive the vaccine for free?
The vaccine is free to all young people in Year 10 of secondary school, as well as those young people not in secondary school but of an equivalent age (15 or 16 years old).
Who can administer the free vaccine?
Most eligible young people will receive the vaccine as part of the secondary school vaccine program. Nurse immunisers employed by local councils attend every secondary school in the municipality. If an eligible young person cannot or does not receive the vaccine through the secondary school program, they can receive the vaccine from a GP or the local council community immunisation service.
When will the program end?
The program will end on 31 December 2018.
Consent and communication
What consent is required to administer the vaccine?
In the secondary school program, 15 and 16 year olds need consent from a parent or guardian to receive the vaccine. Eligible young people receiving the vaccine at school will have been provided with a parent/guardian information and consent form by which parent/guardians indicate consent in writing. This is distributed by schools to their students and is available in a range of languages.
In a clinical setting such as a medical centre the parent/guardian of an eligible 15 or 16 year old can provide consent to the immunisation provider. An immunisation provider can determine 'mature minor' consent where applicable. Read more about mature consent under Consent for vaccination.
What resources are there for eligible young people and/or parents/guardians to assist in communication regarding the program?
The Victorian Governments' consumer health information website, the Better Health Channel, provides frequently asked questions about the free meningococcal vaccine program.
What resources are available for immunisation providers to assist in communication regarding the program?
Immunisation providers are invited to order and display free promotional posters.
What resources are there for school communities to assist in communication regarding the program?
The Victorian Government's Immune Hero website provides a range of resources for secondary schools regarding the free meningococcal vaccine program and other vaccinations delivered in secondary school.
Vaccine presentation, safety and administration
What vaccine is supplied under the program?
The meningococcal A,C,W,Y vaccine brand supplied is Menactra®. Menactra® is an inactivated quadrivalent conjugate vaccine.
How is the Menactra® presented?
Menactra® presents as a liquid form in a single dose vial. Immunisation providers supply the syringe and needle for each vaccination.
How is Menactra® administered?
Menactra® is administered by intramuscular injection into the deltoid muscle.
What strains does this vaccine protect against?
Menactra® provides protection against the A, C, W, and Y strains of meningococcal disease.
If an eligible young person received a dose of meningococcal C vaccine in childhood (due at 12 months of age), do they still require a free dose of Menactra® vaccine?
Yes. A single dose of Menactra® provides protection against A,C,W,Y strains and will boost adolescents' protection with the C strain that was administered at 12 months of age.
If an eligible young person did not receive a dose of meningococcal C vaccine in childhood (due at 12 months of age), do they require a free dose of Menactra® vaccine?
Yes. They should receive a single dose of Menactra® vaccine now as it contains protection against the meningococcal C strain.
If an eligible young person misses their free dose of the Menactra® vaccine at school, can they still receive it later?
Yes. If an eligible young person misses their free dose of Menactra®, they are eligible to receive this dose up to 31 December 2018.
If an eligible young person has previously received a dose of polysaccharide quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (Menomune® or Mencevax®), do they still require a free dose of Menactra® vaccine?
Yes. Eligible young people are recommended Menactra®, the conjugate quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, for long term protection.
Are there any timing interval considerations for administration of Menactra® vaccine and other meningococcal vaccine products?
The recommended minimum interval is eight weeks between doses of any conjugate meningococcal C containing vaccine and six months between the polysaccharide quadrivalent vaccine and Menactra®.
There is no interval requirement for Meningococcal B vaccine.
If an eligible young person receives the free Menactra® vaccine, is a booster dose required later in adolescence?
The current recommendation is that booster doses are not usually required. Booster doses may be recommended for some individuals, including those with high risk medical conditions and those traveling to areas with high rates of meningococcal disease based on individual risk assessment. Refer to NCIRS Meningococcal fact sheet for further information.
Can Menactra® be safely administered to an eligible young person who is pregnant or breastfeeding?
Pregnancy - Meningococcal vaccines are not routinely recommended for pregnant women, but can be given where clinically indicated for women with an increased risk of meningococcal disease. Refer to the current Australian Immunisation Handbook.
Breastfeeding - Inactivated vaccines, such as conjugate meningococcal vaccines like Menactra® may be administered to women who are breastfeeding.
Can Menactra® be administered with other vaccines offered free to young people on the National Immunisation Program schedule?
Yes. Multiple vaccines can be administered on the same day at different injection sites.
Ordering and reporting
How can the vaccine be ordered?
To order vaccine use the Government vaccine order form online.
How many doses of Menactra® vaccine should I order?
Immunisation providers not involved in delivery of the vaccine through secondary schools are encouraged to order small quantities sufficient for one month's use of Menactra® for eligible young people who do not access the vaccine through the secondary school-based vaccine program.
Should I report administration of Menactra® vaccine to the Australian Immunisation Register?
Yes. Menactra® should be reported to the Australian Immunisation Register in the usual way.
Resources and further reading