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Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease


Key Facts

CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® or Menveo®) for all preteens and teens at 11 to 12 years old, with a booster dose at 16 years old. Teens and young adults (16 through 23 year olds) also may be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.


Who Should Get Meningococcal Vaccines?

CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, children and adults should also get meningococcal vaccines. Below is more information about which meningococcal vaccines are recommended for people by age, as well as information on who should not get meningococcal vaccines.

Talk to your or your child’s healthcare professional about what is best for your specific situation.

Preteens and Teens

There are two types of meningococcal vaccines for preteens and teens:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (Menactra® or Menveo®)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero® or Trumenba®)

All 11 to 12 year olds should be vaccinated with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® or Menveo®), with a booster dose given at 16 years old. Teens may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (2 or 3 doses depending on brand), preferably at 16 through 18 years old.

Helpful Terms

  • Neisseria meningitidis: The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease
  • Serogroup: A group of bacteria that are closely related; there are five serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis that cause most meningococcal disease in the world — A, B, C, W, and Y

Preteens and teens should get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (Bexsero® or Trumenba®) if they:

  • Have a rare type of disorder (complement component deficiency)
  • Are taking the medicine called Soliris®
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Get more information about meningococcal vaccine recommendations for teenagers: Meningococcal Vaccination for Preteens and Teens: Questions and Answers for Parents.

Babies and Children

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra®, Menveo®, or MenHibrix®) is recommended for children who are between 2 months and 10 years old, if they:

  • Have a rare type of disorder (complement component deficiency)
  • Are taking the medicine called Soliris®
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Have HIV
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak

Talk to your child’s doctor to find out if, and when, they will need booster shots.

Children 10 years or older should get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (Bexsero® or Trumenba®) if they:

  • Have a rare type of disorder (complement component deficiency)
  • Are taking a medicine called Soliris®
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Adults

Meningococcal vaccines are recommended for certain groups of adults at increased risk for meningococcal disease. Each meningococcal vaccine is listed below with which groups of adults are recommended to get it.

Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine Recommendations

Adults should get a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® or Menveo®) if they:

  • Have a rare type of disorder (complement component deficiency)
  • Are taking a medicine called Soliris®
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Have HIV
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak
  • Are not up to date with this vaccine and are a first-year college student living in a residence hall
  • Are a military recruit

Talk to your doctor to find out if, and when, you will need booster shots.

Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Recommendations

Adults 56 years or older should get the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune®) if they are anticipated to only need one dose and they:

  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak
  • Have not previously been vaccinated with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® or Menveo®)

Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine Recommendations

Adults of any age should get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (Bexsero® or Trumenba®) if they:

  • Have a rare type of disorder (complement component deficiency)
  • Are taking a medicine called Soliris®
  • Have a damaged spleen or their spleen has been removed
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis
  • Are part of a population identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

Who Should Not Get These Vaccines?

Because of age or health conditions, some people should not get certain vaccines or should wait before getting them. Read the guidelines below and ask your or your child’s healthcare professional for more information.

Tell the person who is giving you or your child a meningococcal vaccine if:

You or your child have had a life-threatening allergic reaction or have a severe allergy.

  • Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a previous dose of a meningococcal vaccine should not get another dose of that vaccine.
  • Anyone who has a severe allergy to any part of these vaccines should not get another dose of that vaccine. Your child’s healthcare professional can tell you about the vaccine's ingredients.

You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Meningococcal conjugate (Menactra® or Menveo®) and polysaccharide vaccines may be given to pregnant women that are at increased risk for serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease.
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines should only be given to pregnant or breastfeeding women that are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease and decide, after talking with a doctor, that the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risk.

You or your child are not feeling well.

  • People who have a mild illness, such as a cold, can probably get the vaccine. People who are moderately or severely ill should probably wait until they recover. Your or your child’s healthcare professional can advise you.
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What Types of Meningococcal Vaccines Are There?

There are three types of meningococcal vaccines licensed for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Conjugate vaccines (Menactra®, Menveo®, and MenHibrix®)
  • Polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune®)
  • Serogroup B (recombinant) vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®)

Helpful Terms

  • Conjugate: A type of vaccine that joins a protein to part of the bacteria to improve the protection the vaccine provides
  • Polysaccharide: A type of vaccine that is made to look like the surface of certain bacteria in order to help the body build protection against that germ
  • Recombinant: A type of vaccine where proteins from certain bacteria are used to help the body build protection against that germ

Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccines

  • Menactra®: Two doses are given to preteens and teens to help protect against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W, and Y). It is also given to certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease.
  • Menveo®: Two doses are given to preteens and teens to help protect against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W, and Y). It is also given to certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease.
  • MenHibrix® [14 pages]: May be given in a three-dose primary series plus one booster dose to children at increased risk of meningococcal disease who are 6 weeks through 18 months old to help protect against two types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroups C and Y) along with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine

  • Menomune®: One dose is given to certain people older than 55 years at increased risk of meningococcal disease to help protect against four types of the germ that causes meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W, and Y).

Serogroup B (Recombinant) Meningococcal Vaccines

  • Bexsero® [11 pages]: It is given as a two-dose series to people 10 through 25 years old and certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease to help protect against one type of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroup B).
  • Trumenba® [11 pages]: It is given as a three-dose series to people 10 through 25 years old and certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease to help protect against one type of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroup B).
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How Well Do These Vaccines Work?

Summary

Vaccines that help protect against meningococcal disease work well, but cannot prevent all cases.

In studies demonstrating the efficacy of meningococcal conjugate vaccines:

  • Menactra® in preteens and teens: Between 8 and 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series
  • Menactra® in adults: Between 7 and 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series
  • Menveo® in preteens and teens: Between 7 and 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series
  • Menveo® in adults: Between 7 and 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series
  • MenHibrix® in children: About 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response against serogroups C and Y one month after completing the series

In studies demonstrating the efficacy of the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine:

  • Menomune® in older children and adults: Between 85 and 100 people out of every 100 vaccinated had a short-term protective immune response against serogroups A and C
  • Menomune® in children 2 years or older: Estimates are not available but studies show a protective immune response against serogroups Y and W

In studies demonstrating the efficacy of serogroup B meningococcal vaccines:

  • Besexero® in preteens, teens, and young adults: Between 6 and 9 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series
  • Trumenba® in preteens, teens, and young adults: 8 people out of every 10 vaccinated had a protective immune response one month after completing the series

In Depth

Today, meningococcal disease is at a historic low in the United States. Rates of meningococcal disease have been declining in the United States since the 1990s, with much of the decline seen before the routine use of meningococcal vaccines. In addition, serogroup B meningococcal disease has continued to decline even though vaccines were not available to help protect against it until the end of 2014. Among 11 through 19 year olds the rate of meningococcal disease caused by serogroups C, Y, and W has decreased (80%) since preteens and teens were first recommended to get a meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Similar declines were not seen in age groups not routinely getting conjugate vaccines. These data suggest meningococcal conjugate vaccines provide protection to those vaccinated, but do not provide protection to the larger, unvaccinated community through herd immunity. Learn about herd immunity on vaccines.gov.

As part of the licensure process, both meningococcal conjugate and serogroup B meningococcal vaccines showed that they produce an immune response that suggests the vaccines are protective, but there are limited data available on how well they work to protect against disease. With an uncommon disease like meningococcal disease, a lot of people need to get a vaccine before its effectiveness can be measured on a large scale.

Available data suggest that protection from meningococcal conjugate vaccines decreases in many teens within 5 years, which highlights the importance of the 16-year-old booster dose so that teens maintain protection during the ages when they are most at risk for meningococcal disease. Early data on serogroup B meningococcal vaccines suggest that protective antibodies also decrease fairly quickly after vaccination.

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What Are the Possible Side Effects of Meningococcal Vaccines?

Most people who get a meningococcal vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days, but serious reactions are also possible.

Mild Problems

Meningococcal Conjugate and Polysaccharide Vaccines

Mild problems following meningococcal conjugate or polysaccharide vaccination can include:

  • Reactions where the shot was given
    • Redness
    • Pain
  • Fever

If these problems occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days. They are more common after meningococcal conjugate vaccines than after meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines

Mild problems following a serogroup B meningococcal vaccination can include:

  • Reactions where the shot was given
    • Soreness
    • Redness
    • Swelling
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or diarrhea

If these problems occur, they can last up to 2 or 3 days.


Problems that Could Happen After Getting Any Injected Vaccine

  • People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell the healthcare professional if you or your child feel dizzy, have vision changes, or have ringing in the ears.
  • Some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.
  • Any medicine can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.

For more information on possible side effects from vaccination, visit CDC’s Possible Side-effects from Vaccines webpage.

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Where Can I Find These Vaccines?

Your healthcare professional is usually the best place to receive recommended vaccines for you or your child.

These vaccines are part of the routine childhood immunization schedule. Therefore, vaccines are regularly available at pediatric and family practice offices, as well as community health clinics and public health departments for children and teens. If your healthcare professional does not have these vaccines for adults, ask for a referral.

Vaccines may also be available at pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, health departments, or other community locations such as schools and religious centers. Federally funded health centers can also provide services if you don’t have a regular source of health care. Locate one near you. You can also contact your state health department to learn more about where to get vaccines in your community.

When receiving any vaccine, ask the provider to record the vaccine in the state or local registry, if available. This helps healthcare professionals at future encounters know what vaccines you or your child have already received.


How Do I Pay for These Vaccines?

There are several ways meningococcal vaccines may be paid for:

Private Health Insurance

Most private health insurance plans cover these vaccines. Check with your insurance provider for details on whether there is any cost to you and for a list of in-network vaccine providers.

Vaccines for Children Program

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them. A child is eligible for the program if they are younger than 19 years of age and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Medicaid-eligible
  • Uninsured
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Underinsured (have health insurance that does not cover vaccines or does not cover certain vaccines)

If your child is VFC-eligible, ask if your healthcare professional is a VFC provider. For help in finding a VFC provider near you, contact your state or local health department’s VFC Program Coordinator or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

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