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Meningococcal Vaccine

(MCV4; MPSV4; Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines)

What Is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by a specific bacteria that affects the meninges. The meninges are a protective membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial infection of the meninges (bacterial meningitis) can cause death within hours. This bacteria can also cause infections in the blood. The bacteria spreads easily from person to person.

It can be deadly if it is not treated right away. Most people recover, but they can have serious health problems, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and problems learning.

What Is the Meningococcal Vaccine?

There are two types of meningococcal vaccines:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (MCV4)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (MenB)

The vaccines have inactive forms of the meningococcal bacteria. Inactive forms cannot cause an infection. Instead, they stimulate the body to make antibodies to fight future infections.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

MCV4 Vaccines

MCV4 vaccines are routinely given to children who are 11 to 12 years of age. A booster dose is given age 16 years.

The vaccines are also recommended for certain groups of people, such as:

  • People at risk because of a disease outbreak
  • People with HIV
  • People who have problems with spleen function or have had their spleen removed
  • Anyone with a rare immune system problem called "complement component deficiency"
  • People taking a complement inhibitor medicine
  • People who work in labs who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • People who travel to or live in areas where meningococcal disease is common
  • College freshmen who have not been fully vaccinated and live in dorms
  • Military personnel

MenB Vaccines

MenB vaccines are advised for people 10 years of age or older who are at higher risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease. This includes:

  • People at risk because of a serogroup meningococcal disease outbreak
  • People who have problems with spleen function or have had their spleen removed
  • Anyone with a rare immune system problem called "complement component deficiency"
  • People taking a complement inhibitor medicine
  • People who work in labs who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria

MenB may also be given to anyone 16 to 23 years of age to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 to 18 years of age.

More than one dose of the vaccine is needed to provide the best protection.

What Are the Risks Associated With the Meningococcal Vaccine?

Common side effects are:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
  • Lack of energy
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea

Less common, but more serious side effects are:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Problems breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

If you have the following conditions, you should not get the vaccine:

  • Have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or its components
  • Are moderately or severely ill

People who are pregnant should wait to get the vaccine. The vaccine may only be given if they are at increased risk of infection.

What Other Ways Can Meningococcal Disease Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

Preventive antibiotics may be given to people in close contact with an infected person, such as:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Family members

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

In the event of an outbreak, close contacts of infected people and people at increased risk should get the vaccine. Antibiotics may be advised for people in close contact.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

Immunization
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
https://www.healthychildren.org

Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

REFERENCES:

Bacterial meningitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bacterial-meningitis-in-adults. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Bacterial meningitis in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bacterial-meningitis-in-children. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningococcal ACWY VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningococcal disease. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/meningococcal-disease. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningococcal disease. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at: http://www.vaccineinformation.org/meningococcal. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningococcal vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Meningococcal vaccination: What everyone should know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD  Last Updated: 9/7/2021