Virtually all young Northlanders will be offered free vaccination against meningococcal C disease because of the six cases including two deaths recorded since July.

The Northland District Health Board campaign to combat what it is now calling an outbreak of the disease will start on Monday with high school-based vaccination in the areas of greatest infection risk.

"The campaign aims to vaccinate at least 85 per cent of everyone in Northland aged 12 months to under 20 years," the DHB said today.

"It is envisaged the campaign will run for a 10-week period, from September 26 to December 16."

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The vaccine is different from the one that was used against the B-strain meningococcal disease epidemic that occurred in New Zealand from 1991 to 2008.

Northland medical officer of health, Dr Clair Mills, said the region usually had no more than two cases of type C meningococcal disease each year.

"The current situation is, therefore, consistent with a community outbreak.

"Following expert advice, and in consultation with the Ministry of Health, we have decided to launch a vaccination campaign to help control this outbreak and prevent more cases of disease.

"As meningococcal disease tends to have a seasonal pattern, we may see a decline in cases of disease as we move further into spring. This is not certain, however, and we don't wish to wait and see."

All of the cases since July have been in people aged between 1 and 18. Meningococcal B disease has in the past been more common than the C type.

The single-dose type C vaccine is called Meningitec.

The vaccination campaign is expected to reach primary schools from the beginning of November.

Children aged 12 months to under 5 years will be offered vaccination by their family doctor. People who have left high school and are aged less than 20 will be able to get the vaccine from their GP or attend special vaccination clinics.