Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

Key Facts

There are 2 types of meningococcal vaccines:

  • Meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines
  • Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines

Who Should Get Meningococcal Vaccines?

CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, CDC also recommends other children and adults get a meningococcal vaccine. Below is more information about which meningococcal vaccines CDC recommends for people by age.

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

Preteens and Teens

Taking a complement inhibitor such as eculizumab (Soliris®) or ravulizumab (Ultomiris®) increases your risk for meningococcal disease. Even if you received meningococcal vaccines, you could still get meningococcal disease.

All 11 to 12 year olds should get a MenACWY vaccine, with a booster dose at 16 years old. Teens may also get a MenB vaccine, preferably at 16 through 18 years old.

While any teen may choose to get a MenB vaccine, certain preteens and teens should get it if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • 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: Information for Parents.

Babies and Children

Helpful Terms
  • Neisseria meningitidis: The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease
  • Serogroup: A group of bacteria that are closely related; there are 6 serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis that cause most meningococcal disease in the world — A, B, C, W, X, and Y

CDC recommends a MenACWY vaccine for children who are between 2 months and 10 years old if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • 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 clinician to find out if, and when, they will need booster shots.

CDC recommends a MenB vaccine for children 10 years or older if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • 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

CDC recommends a MenACWY vaccine for adults if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • 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 clinician to find out if, and when, you will need booster shots.

CDC recommends a MenB vaccine for adults if they:

  • Have a rare type of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Are taking a type of medicine called a complement inhibitor (for example, Soliris® or Ultomiris®)
  • 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 clinician 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.

  • Do not get a meningococcal vaccine if
    • You have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a previous dose of that meningococcal vaccine.
    • You have a severe allergy to any part of that vaccine. Your or your child’s clinician can tell you about the vaccine’s ingredients.

You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Pregnant women who are at increased risk for serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease may get MenACWY vaccines.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease may get MenB vaccines. However, they should talk with a clinician to decide if 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 these vaccines. People who have a moderate or severe illness should probably wait until they recover. Your or your child’s clinician can advise you.

 Top of Page

What Types of Meningococcal Vaccines Are There?

There are 2 types of meningococcal vaccines available in the United States:

  • MenACWY (conjugate) vaccines (Menactra® and Menveo®)
  • MenB (recombinant) vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®)

MenACWY Vaccines

Helpful Terms
  • Conjugate: A type of vaccine that joins a protein to an antigen in order to improve the protection the vaccine provides
  • Recombinant: A type of vaccine where the protein antigen is put into a harmless virus or bacterium that then makes copies of the antigen that the immune system recognizes and creates protective antibodies against
  • Menactra®external icon: Clinicians give 2 doses to preteens and teens. Clinicians also give it to certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease. It helps protect against 4 types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W, and Y).
  • Menveo®external icon: Clinicians give 2 doses to preteens and teens. Clinicians also give it to certain people at increased risk of meningococcal disease. It helps protect against 4 types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (serogroups A, C, W, and Y).

MenB Vaccines

  • Bexsero®external icon: Clinicians give it as a 2-dose series to people 16 through 23 years old who are not at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Clinicians also give it as a 2-dose series to people 10 years or older at increased risk of meningococcal disease. It helps protect against  serogroup B meningococcal disease.
  • Trumenba®external icon: Clinicians give it as a 2-dose series to people 16 through 23 years old who are not at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Clinicians give it as a 3-dose series to people 10 years or older at increased risk of meningococcal disease. It helps protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

How Well Do These Vaccines Work?

Summary

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

As part of the licensure process, MenACWY and MenB vaccines showed that they produce an immune response. This immune response suggests the vaccines provide protection, but data are limited on how well they work. Since meningococcal disease is uncommon, many people need to get these vaccines in order to measure their effectiveness.

Available data suggest that protection from MenACWY vaccines decreases in many teens within 5 years. Getting the 16-year-old booster dose is critical to maintaining protection when teens are most at risk for meningococcal disease. Available data on MenB vaccines suggest that protective antibodies also decrease quickly (within 1 to 2 years) after vaccination.

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. Much of the decline occurred before the routine use of MenACWY vaccines. In addition, serogroup B meningococcal disease declined even though MenB vaccines were not available until the end of 2014.

CDC first recommended preteens and teens get a MenACWY vaccine in 2005. Since then, rates of meningococcal disease in teens caused by serogroups C, Y, and W has decreased by over 90%. This is a larger percent decline than seen in other groups for which CDC does not recommend routine MenACWY vaccination. These data suggest MenACWY vaccines provide protection to those vaccinated, but probably not to the larger, unvaccinated community (herd immunity). Experts also believe MenB vaccines do not provide protection to unvaccinated people through herd immunity.

 Top of Page

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 possible.

Mild Problems

MenACWY Vaccines

Mild problems following MenACWY vaccination can include:

  • Reactions where the shot was given
    • Redness
    • Pain
  • Fever
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired

If these problems occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days.

MenB Vaccines

Mild problems following a MenB 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 3 to 5 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 clinician 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 the clinician gave a shot. 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. These reactions 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.

 Top of Page

Where Can I Find These Vaccines?

Error processing SSI file

Your clinician 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 for children and teens are regularly available at

  • Pediatric and family practice offices
  • Community health clinics
  • Public health departments

If your clinician does not have these vaccines for adults, ask for a referral.

Vaccines may also be available at

  • Pharmacies
  • Workplaces
  • Community health clinics
  • Health departments
  • Other community locations, such as schools and religious centers

Federally funded health centers can also provide services if you do not have a regular source of health care. Locate one near youexternal icon. 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 clinicians at future encounters know what vaccines you or your child have already received.

How Do I Pay for These Vaccines?

People can pay for meningococcal vaccines in several ways:

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. Ask your insurance provider 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 if they are younger than 19 years old 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 clinician is a VFC provider. For help in finding a VFC provider near you, contact your state or local health department’s VFC Program Coordinator. You can also call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

 Top of Page

Page last reviewed: July 26, 2019