The meningococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (meningococci). Meningococcal infections Meningococcal Infections Meningococcal infections are caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (meningococci) and include meningitis and sepsis. Infection is spread by direct contact with nasal and throat... read more can lead to meningitis Introduction to Meningitis Meningitis is inflammation of the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and of the fluid-filled space between the meninges (subarachnoid space). Meningitis can be... read more (an infection of tissue covering the brain), dangerously low blood pressure Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood flow to the organs is low, decreasing delivery of oxygen and thus causing organ damage and sometimes death. Blood pressure is usually low... read more (shock), and death. These bacteria are the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children Meningitis in Children Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the layers of tissue covering the brain and spinal cord ( meninges). Bacterial meningitis in older infants and children usually results from bacteria... read more and the second leading cause of bacterial meningitis in adults Acute Bacterial Meningitis Acute bacterial meningitis is rapidly developing inflammation of the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and of the fluid-filled space between the meninges (subarachnoid... read more .
For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Meningococcal vaccine .
(See also Overview of Immunization Overview of Immunization Immunization (vaccination) helps the body defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses. Immunity (the ability of the body to defend itself against diseases caused by... read more .)
There are several specific types (called serogroups) of Neisseria meningitidis. Meningococcal vaccines protect against the serogroups that cause most meningococcal disease (serogroups A, B, C, W, and Y). Two formulations of the meningococcal vaccine are available in the United States:
The conjugate vaccine (MCV4, protecting against serogroups A, C, W, and Y) is preferred for people 9 months to 55 years old and is used for routine childhood vaccination (see CDC: Meningococcal ACWY vaccine information statement).
Meningococcal group B vaccine (MenB) is available to prevent infection by one type of meningitis bacteria that has become common in outbreaks among college students (see CDC: Meningococcal B vaccine information statement).
Administration of Meningococcal Vaccine
The MCV4 vaccine is a part of the routine vaccination schedule recommended for children (see CDC: Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule by Age). It is given in two doses injected into a muscle. The first dose is given at age 11 to 12 years and the second dose at age 16 years.
The vaccine is also recommended for younger children who are at increased risk of meningococcal infection, such as those without a spleen or their spleen does not work well and those with certain immunodeficiency disorders. The minimum age for the vaccine varies from 6 weeks to 9 months, depending on the formulation used.
The MenB vaccine is given in two doses injected into a muscle. It can be given to people 10 years of age or older who have certain high-risk conditions. However, it may also be given to anyone 16 to 23 years of age who wants it, even if they do not have certain high-risk conditions and are not at increased risk of getting the infection. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 to 18 years.
The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for the following adolescents and adults:
People who do not have a spleen or their spleen does not work well (including sickle cell disease Sickle Cell Disease Sickle cell disease is an inherited genetic abnormality of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells) characterized by sickle (crescent)-shaped red blood cells and chronic... read more )
People with HIV infection
People with certain immunodeficiency disorders
People who take eculizumab or ravulizumab (drugs that block the complement system Complement System One of the body's lines of defense (immune system) involves white blood cells (leukocytes) that travel through the bloodstream and into tissues, searching for and attacking microorganisms and... read more )
Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to the bacteria
Adolescents if they have not already been vaccinated
All first-year college students who live in dormitories who are 21 years old or younger and who have not been given a dose of the vaccine on or after their 16th birthday
All military recruits
Travelers to or residents of areas where the infection is common
People who have been exposed during a meningitis outbreak
At-risk people over age 55 who are at risk of meningococcal disease and who have not received the vaccine previously and who require only a single dose (for example, travelers)
If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).
Side Effects of Meningococcal Vaccine
The injection site may become sore, swollen, and red. Some people have headaches and feel tired. A few people have a fever.
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