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Meningococcal Vaccine for Preteens and Teens

What is meningococcal disease and why vaccinate against it?

Meningococcal disease can be devastating and often—and unexpectedly—strikes otherwise healthy people. Although meningococcal disease is not very common, teens and young adults 16 through 23 years old are at increased risk.

Meningococcal disease can become very serious, very quickly. Meningococcal bacteria can cause severe disease, including infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia), and can result in permanent disabilities including the loss of an arm or leg and even death. These infections don't happen very often, but can be very dangerous when they do. Even if those who are infected get treatment, about 1 out of 10 people with meningococcal disease will die from it.

Meningococcal disease can spread from person to person. The bacteria that cause this infection can spread when people have close or lengthy contact with someone's saliva, like through kissing or coughing, especially if they are living in the same place.

Vaccination is the best way to help protect teens from getting meningococcal disease. There are two types of meningococcal vaccines, the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate and the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. The quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine helps protect against 4 strains (serogroups A, C, W, and Y) of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine helps protect against one strain (serogroup B) of the bacteria.

When should my child be vaccinated?

Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for all preteens and teens. All 11 to 12 year olds should be vaccinated with a single dose of a quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Since protection decreases over time, a booster dose is recommended at age 16 so teens continue to have protection during the ages when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease. Teens and young adults (16 through 23 year olds) may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (2 or 3 doses depending on brand), preferably at 16 through 18 years old. Talk with your teen’s doctor or nurse about meningococcal vaccination to help protect your child’s health. If your older teen has not received their quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, you should talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it as soon as possible.

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What else should I know about these vaccines?

Two teen boys.

Like many vaccines, meningococcal shots may cause mild side effects, like redness and soreness where the shot was given (usually in the arm) or fever. Note that both meningococcal vaccines can be given in the same visit, but in different arms. Some preteens and teens might faint after getting a meningococcal vaccine or any shot. To help avoid fainting, preteens and teens should sit or lie down when they get a shot and then for about 15 minutes after getting the shot.

How can I get help paying for these vaccines?

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are not insured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native.

Where can I learn more?

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse to learn more about meningococcal vaccines and the other vaccines that your child may need.
To learn about who should and should not get these vaccines, when they should be vaccinated, and the risks and benefits of these vaccines, consult the vaccine information statements for:

Consult the meningococcal disease website for a full description of the risk factors, causes, transmission, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and photos of this disease.

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