THE state government has extended its life-saving free meningococcal vaccination program for Year 10 students until December 31 to protect teenage Victorians against the deadly disease.

The vaccination program was launched to combat increasing numbers of meningococcal disease across Victoria compared with five years ago.

The majority of these cases are accounted for by increasing numbers of the previously rare W and Y strains of meningococcal disease.

Across Victoria, 89 cases were diagnosed in 2017, resulting in six deaths, compared to 78 cases in 2016 and 56 cases in 2015.

Department of Health and Human Services figures reveal there were 28 cases diagnosed in regional Victoria in 2017, including four in the Loddon Mallee region.

So far this year, eight cases have been diagnosed throughout Victoria. Health experts predict this number will continue to rise as we approach peak season for meningococcal disease.

Young people aged 15 and 16 years old are at a greater risk of carrying and spreading meningococcal bacteria, as one in five carry it in the back of their throats and can pass the bacteria to family members and friends.

The best way to protect young people, and the wider community, is through the free and safe vaccination on offer.

One in 10 cases of meningococcal disease proves to be fatal with death occurring within 24-48 hours of diagnosis.

Two in every 10 people who survive the disease are left with a permanent disability such as brain damage or the loss of fingers, toes or limbs.

Deputy chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton said the meningococcal ACWY vaccine safely protects against four strains of meningococcal disease, the increasingly common W and Y strains as well as the A and C strains, and ensuring eligible young people are vaccinated is essential in protecting the wider community.

Acting health minister Martin Foley said the program provides young people easy access to a potentially life-saving vaccine, allowing families to feel confident in the health and safety of their children.