Whanganui health leaders are backing Pharmac's decision to fully fund meningococcal ACWY vaccine for 13 to 25-year-olds in close-living situations.
The announcement was made on November 14 with access to the funded vaccine made available from December 1.
Pharmac's deputy medical director Dr Pete Murray said that reducing the spread of meningococcal disease was important to both New Zealanders and Pharmac.
"Our clinical experts told us that teenagers and young adults residing in close living situations are one of the highest-risk populations, which is why we've targeted this group."
Murray said the bacterium that causes meningoccal disease is generally carried by people in this age group.
Whanganui medical officer of health Dr Patrick O'Connor said the vaccine protects against meningococcal infections of serogroups A, C, W and Y.
He said they were particularly interested in serogroup W infections which have been on the rise in New Zealand.
O'Connor confirmed that to October this year there were 33 serogroup W infections nationally, with two of them in Whanganui.
"Young people leaving home to live in hostel accommodation are at particular risk of this dangerous infection and we are pleased that Pharmac is funding this vaccine for them."
People in the qualifying age group who live in boarding school hostels, tertiary education halls of residence, military barracks or prisons will have the opportunity to receive the fully-funded vaccine.
After the first year, only people entering their first year in close-living situations will receive the funded vaccine.
O'Connor said the vaccine will be administered through general practices.
A Whanganui District Health Board (DHB) spokesman said the DHB also welcomed and supported Pharmac's decision.
Pharmac estimates about 35,000 people will be eligible for vaccination during the first year and about 8000 in each following year.
However, Pharmac warns the vaccine does not provide protection against meningococcal group B disease.
About meningococcal disease
Meningococcal bacteria are commonly carried in the nose and throat, and do not usually cause disease.
The bacterium that causes meningitis is generally carried by people aged 13 to 25 years. Even if they have no symptoms, carriers can infect those around them.
The bacterium can be spread from carriers or people with meningitis to other people by coughing, sneezing or contact with saliva. Meningococcus is transmitted from person to person through aerosol droplets, respiratory secretions and saliva, so there is risk to family or whānau members of contracting the disease and it may spread through the household and community.
Occasionally an individual who is carrying the bacterium may develop severe disease such as meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain) or septicaemia (blood infection). People who survive meningococcal disease may have long-term consequences, including skin scarring, amputation of limbs and extremities, hearing loss, seizures or brain injury.
Adolescents and young adults who live in close proximity in multi-residential institutions are particularly at risk of meningococcal disease due to the ease of transmission from person to person.