Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

Key Facts

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

  • 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 meningococcal vaccines. Below is more information about which meningococcal vaccines, including booster shots, CDC recommends for people by age.

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

Preteens and Teens

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

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.

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 sickle cell disease, 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
Meningococcal vaccines for preteens and teens.

Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens and Teens pdf icon[1 page]
This fact sheet answers general questions about meningococcal vaccines for preteens and teens.

Get more information about meningococcal vaccine recommendations for teenagers: Meningococcal Vaccination for Preteens and Teens: Information for Parents. Talk to your child’s doctor to find out if, and when, they will need MenACWY or MenB booster shots.

Babies and Children

CDC recommends MenACWY vaccination 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 sickle cell disease, or their spleen has been removed
  • Have HIV
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal 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
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 MenB vaccination 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 sickle cell disease, 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

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

Adults

CDC recommends MenACWY vaccination 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 sickle cell disease, 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 serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal 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

CDC recommends MenB vaccination 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 sickle cell disease, 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

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

Who Might Not Be Able to 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 doctor 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 doctor 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 doctor to decide if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks.

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 doctor can advise you.

What Types of Meningococcal Vaccines Are There?

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

  • MenACWY (conjugate) vaccines (Menactra®, Menveo®, and MenQuadfi®)
  • MenB (recombinant protein) 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 protein: A type of vaccine that contains protein antigens

MenB Vaccines

  • Bexsero®external icon: Vaccine providers give a 2-dose series to people 16 through 23 years old who are not at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Vaccine providers also give a 2-dose series to people 10 years or older at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Bexsero® helps protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease.
  • Trumenba®external icon: Vaccine providers give a 2-dose series to people 16 through 23 years old who are not at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Vaccine providers give a 3-dose series to people 10 years or older at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Trumenba® 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 MenACWY booster dose is critical so teens have protection when they 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

Rates of meningococcal disease have declined in the United States since the 1990s and remain low today. 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 have decreased by over 90% (note: serogroup A meningococcal disease continues to be very rare in the United States). Other age groups that CDC does not recommend routine MenACWY vaccination for did not see this large of a percent decline. These data suggest MenACWY vaccines have provided protection to those vaccinated, but probably not to the larger, unvaccinated community (population or herd immunity). Experts also believe MenB vaccines do not provide protection to unvaccinated people through population immunity.

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
    • Soreness
  • Muscle 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 medical procedures, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell the provider if you or your child feel dizzy, have vision changes, or have ringing in the ears.
  • As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.

Where Can I Find These Vaccines?

Your doctor 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 doctor 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

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 vaccine registry, if available. This helps providers at future visits know what vaccines you or your child have already received.

How Can I Get Help Paying 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

Most health insurance plans cover routine vaccinations. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program also provides vaccines for children 18 years and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native.

Page last reviewed: October 12, 2021