Vaccine (Shot) for Meningococcal Disease

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How to pronounce meningococcal: [muh-ning-goh-KOK-uh]

Two doses of the meningococcal shot called MenACWY are recommended for preteens and teens by doctors as the best way to protect against meningococcal disease.

When should my child get the meningococcal shot?

One dose at each of the following ages:

Teens may also get a MenB shot, preferably at ages 16-18 years. Multiple doses are needed for best protection. If you are interested, talk to child’s doctor.

Why should my child get meningococcal shots?

  • Protects against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.
  • Protects your child from infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, as well as bloodstream infections.
  • Protects your child from long-term disabilities that often come with surviving meningococcal disease.

What vaccines protect against meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine protects against four types (serogroups A, C, W, and Y) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
  • Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine protects against one type (serogroup B) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

Meningococcal shots are safe.

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The meningococcal shots are safe and effective at preventing meningococcal disease. Vaccines like any medicine, can have side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

What are the side effects?

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

  • Redness or pain where they got the shot
  • Fever

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

Following a MenB shot, 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 5 days, but serious reactions are possible. Note that teens can get both meningococcal vaccines during the same visit, but in different arms.

Some preteens and teens might faint after getting a meningococcal vaccine or any other shot.

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To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, adolescents should be seated or lying down during vaccination and remain in that position for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.

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Prepare for your child's vaccine visit and learn about how you can:

  • Research vaccines and ready your child before the visit
  • Comfort your child during the appointment
  • Care for your child after the shot
Before, During, and After Shots
14 diseases you almost forgot about.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us]. Meningococcal disease is not very common in the United States, but teens and young adults are at increased risk.

The two most common types of infections are

  1. Infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  2. Infections of the bloodstream

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are usually sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to flu, and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion.

Is meningococcal disease serious?

Meningococcal meningitis and bloodstream infections can be very serious, even deadly. The infections progress quickly. Someone can go from being healthy to very ill in 48 hours or less. Even if they get treatment, about 10 to 15 out of 100 people with meningococcal disease will die from it. Long-term disabilities from having meningococcal disease include loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, and brain damage.

How do you get meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal bacteria spread through saliva or spit, usually through:

  • Close contact, like when a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat coughs on or kisses someone
  • Ongoing contact, like living with a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat (for example, same household, college residence halls, military barracks)
Page last reviewed: August 2, 2019