Meningococcal Vaccination

Preteen children walk through a hallway at school.

Teens and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a very serious illness where death can occur in as little as a few hours. Talk with your preteen’s doctor about meningococcal vaccination to help protect your child’s health.

There are two types of meningococcal vaccines licensed in the United States:

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

These vaccines help prevent the most common causes of meningococcal disease in the United States.

Three serogroups cause most meningococcal disease in the United States: B, C, and Y. Two vaccines provide protection: MenACWY helps protect against serogroups C and Y while MenB helps protect against serogroup B. Talk to a doctor about what vaccines are best for you or your child.

Two meningococcal vaccines (MenACWY and MenB) provide protection against the serogroups that cause most meningococcal disease in the United States.

CDC Recommends Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens, and Certain Other People

CDC recommends MenACWY for:

  • All preteens at 11 to 12 years old
  • All teens at 16 years old

The booster dose at 16 years old gives teens continued protection during the ages when they are at highest risk.

exclamation triangle iconIf your teenager missed getting MenACWY, ask their doctor about getting it now.

Teens and young adults (16 through 23 year olds) may also get a MenB vaccine:

  • Preferred age is 16 through 18 years old
  • Multiple doses needed for best protection
  • Must get the same brand for all doses

exclamation triangle iconTalk with your teen’s doctor if you are interested in MenB vaccination.

Younger children and adults usually do not need meningococcal vaccines. However, CDC recommends one or both types of meningococcal vaccines for people with

  • Certain medical conditions
  • Travel plans to areas where the disease is common
  • Jobs working with the bacteria
  • Increased risk due to a meningococcal disease outbreak

Meningococcal Vaccines Are Safe but Side Effects Can Occur

About half of people who get a MenACWY vaccine have mild problems following vaccination:

  • Redness or pain where you got the shot
  • Fever

These reactions usually get better on their own within 1 to 2 days, but serious reactions are possible.

Following MenB vaccination, more than half of people who get the vaccine will have mild problems:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where you got the shot
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or diarrhea

These reactions usually get better on their own within 3 to 7 days, but serious reactions are possible.

More Information

Page last reviewed: April 8, 2020