Group Settings as a Risk Factor

College students walking across campus to their classes.

Infectious diseases tend to spread wherever large groups of people gather. Recent data show that the risk for meningococcal disease in college students is slightly higher than the risk in other teens and young adults who are not attending college. Many states require colleges to provide information on risks of meningococcal disease to incoming students or students residing on campus. Some states require vaccination for certain students, unless the students provide a vaccination waiver.

CDC recommends a meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine for first-year college students living in residence halls. If they received it before their 16th birthday, they need a booster shot for maximum protection before going to college. However, the vaccine is safe and effective and therefore doctors can also give it to non-first-year college students.

College campuses have reported outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease in recent years. CDC recommends the use of a serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine for people at increased risk during these outbreaks. MenACWY vaccines do not include protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease. In an outbreak setting, CDC recommends a MenB booster shot for college students who previously received the vaccine series. Talk with your clinician about what is best for your specific situation.

Learn more about meningococcal vaccine recommendations.

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Page last reviewed: May 31, 2019