Meningococcal Vaccines

Safety Information

About Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).

There are 6 serogroups (a group of bacteria that are closely related) of N. meningitidis that cause most meningococcal disease in the world. They are referred to as serogroups A, B, C, W, X, and Y. These bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (like spit). This can occur when living in close quarters, sharing food or beverages, or kissing.

N. meningitidis is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children ages 2 through 18 years in the United States. There are safe and effective vaccines that can protect against meningococcal disease.

Learn more about meningococcal disease.

Vaccine Information Statements

Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) are information sheets produced by CDC that explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine.

  • MenACWY
    Meningococcal ACWY vaccine for adolescents and specific populations.
  • MenB
    Meningococcal B vaccine for adolescents and adults of specific populations.

Available Vaccines

There are two types of vaccines available in the United States that can safely prevent meningococcal disease. They are (1) quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines and (2) serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines.

MenACWY vaccine protects against meningococcal disease caused by serogroups A, C, W, and Y.

MenB vaccine protects against meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B.

Who Should Get MenACWY Vaccine

CDC recommends adolescents receive two doses of MenACWY vaccine:

  • First dose given to 11- or 12-year-olds
  • Second (booster) dose given to 16-year-olds

Other than adolescents, MenACWY vaccine is recommended for anyone 2 months of age or older who:

  • Is at risk because of a serogroup A, C, W, or Y meningococcal disease outbreak
  • Has HIV
  • Has had their spleen damaged or removed, including people with sickle cell disease
  • Has a rare immune condition called persistent complement component deficiency
  • Is taking a complement inhibitor drug, such as eculizumab (brand name: Soliris®) or ravulizumab (brand name: Ultomiris®)
  • Is a microbiologist who routinely works with isolates of meningitidis
  • Is living in or traveling to a part of the world where meningococcal disease epidemics occur frequently. Areas with highest incidence include a region of sub-Saharan Africa, shown on this map, that extends laterally all the way from Senegal to Ethiopia
  • Is a college freshman living in a residence hall who has not been completely vaccinated with MenACWY vaccine
  • Is a U.S. military recruit.


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Who Should Get MenB Vaccine

Teens and young adults (16 through 23 years old) may also get a MenB vaccine. The preferred ages for MenB vaccination are 16 through 18 years old. Multiple doses of the same brand are needed for best protection. Younger children and adults usually do not need MenB vaccines. However, CDC recommends MenB vaccine for anyone 10 years or older who:

  • Is at risk because of serogroup meningococcal B disease outbreak
  • Had their spleen damaged or removed, including people with sickle cell disease
  • Has a rare immune condition called persistent complement component deficiency
  • Is taking a complement inhibitor drug, such as eculizumab (brand name: Soliris®) or ravulizumab (brand name: Ultomiris®)
  • Is a microbiologist who routinely works with isolates of meningitidis

For more information, see Who should get meningococcal vaccination.

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Child and Adult Immunization Schedules
Get CDC’s official recommended immunization schedules for children, adolescents, and adults.

Manufacturer Package Inserts

Common Side Effects

MenACWY and MenB vaccines are safe and effective at preventing meningococcal disease. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own.

Important!

Severe allergic reactions following vaccination are rare, but can be life threatening.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness.

If such reactions occur, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.

MenACWY Vaccine

Common Side Effects

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)

Most side effects are mild to moderate and last from 1 to 3 days.

Who Should Not Get MenACWY Vaccine

A person should talk with their healthcare provider before getting a MenACWY vaccine if they:

  • Had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of MenACWY vaccine
  • Had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of a diphtheria toxoid-, CRM197-, or tetanus toxoid-containing vaccine (e.g., Menactra, Menveo, Menquadfi, or any DTaP vaccine)
  • Have any severe life-threatening allergies

In some cases, the healthcare provider may decide to postpone MenACWY vaccination to a future visit.

People with minor illnesses (such as a cold) may be vaccinated.

People who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover before getting a MenACWY vaccine.

MenB Vaccine

Common Side Effects

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever

Most side effects are mild to moderate and last from 1 to 3 days.

Who Should Not Get MenB Vaccine

MenB vaccines should not be given to anyone younger than 10 years of age.

A person should talk with their healthcare provider before getting a MenB vaccine if they:

  • Had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of MenB vaccine
  • Have any severe, life-threatening allergies
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a latex allergy (precaution for Bexsero)

In some cases, the healthcare provider may decide to postpone MenB vaccination to a future visit.

People with minor illnesses (such as a cold) may be vaccinated.

People who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover before getting a MenB vaccine.

Report Possible Adverse Events To VAERS

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is an early warning system, co-managed by CDC and FDA, that monitors for potential vaccine safety problems.

Healthcare providers and vaccine manufacturers are required by law to report certain adverse events following vaccination to VAERS; patients and caregivers can also submit reports.

For more information, see Report an Adverse Event to VAERSexternal icon.

More Information

A Closer Look at the Safety Data

Which adverse events are considered “serious”?

By the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21external icon, an adverse event is defined as serious if it involves any of the following outcomes

  • Death
  • A life-threatening adverse event
  • A persistent or significant disability or incapacity
  • A congenital anomaly or birth defect
  • Hospitalization, or prolongation of existing hospitalization

Learn more about adverse events.

Findings from vaccine safety monitoring systems and scientific studies have shown that MenACWY and MenB vaccines have a favorable safety profile—the body of scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports their safety.

Menactra Safety Data
After Menactra (MenACWY vaccine) was licensed for use in 2005, there were reports submitted to VAERS that suggested a potential for an increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) following Menactra vaccination.

GBS is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. While the cause is not fully understood, the syndrome often follows infection with a virus or bacteria. Learn more about GBS.

The vaccine manufacturers changed the package insert for Menactra to identify a history of GBS as a precaution to vaccination. Subsequently, this precaution was added to other MenACWY vaccines.

Following the VAERS findings, two large safety studies were done to evaluate the risk of GBS after Menactra vaccination. The two studies combined found that the risk for GBS after Menactra vaccination was not increased over the usual (non-vaccine related) GBS rate among people ages 11 to 21 years.

Based on these studies, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) no longer considers a history of GBS to be a contraindication nor precaution for meningococcal vaccination.

Source: No risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome found after meningococcal conjugate vaccination in two large cohort studies [Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012]external icon

How CDC Monitors Vaccine Safety

CDC and FDA monitor the safety of vaccines after they are approved or authorized. If a problem is found with a vaccine, CDC and FDA will inform health officials, health care providers, and the public.

CDC uses 3 systems to monitor vaccine safety:

Related Scientific Articles

Duffy J, Marquez P, Dores GM, Ng C, Su J, Cano M, Perez-Vilar S. Safety surveillance of bivalent meningococcal group B vaccine, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 2014-2018external icon Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020 Oct 27;7(12):ofaa516. Epub 2020 Dec.

Mbaeyi SA, Bozio CH, Duffy J, Rubin LG, Hariri S, Stephen DS, MacNeil JR. Meningococcal Vaccination: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, United States, 2020external icon MMWR Recomm Rep. 2020 Sep 25;69(No. RR-9):1-41.

Myers TR, McNeil MM, Ng CS, Li R, Marquez PL, Moro PL, Omer SB, Cano MV. Adverse events following quadrivalent meningococcal diphtheria toxoid conjugate vaccine (Menactra®) reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), 2005-2016external icon Vaccine. 2020 Sep 11;38(40):6291-8. Epub 2020 Jul 31.

Li R, Weintraub E, McNeil MM, Kulldorff M, Lewis EM, Nelson J, Xu S, Qian L, Klein NP, Destefano F. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine safety surveillance in the Vaccine Safety Datalink using a tree-temporal scan data mining methodexternal icon Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2018 Apr;27(4):391-7. Epub 2018 Feb 15.

Myers TR, McNeil MM. Current safety issues with quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccinesexternal icon Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2018 May 4;14(5):1175-8. Epub 2017 Nov 8.

Duffy J, Johnsen P, Ferris M, Miller M, Leighton K, McGilvray M, McNamara L, Breakwell L, Yu Y, Bhavsar T, Briere E, Patel M. Safety of a meningococcal group B vaccine used in response to two university outbreaks.external icon J Am Coll Health. Aug-Sep 2017;65(6):380-8. Epub 2017 May 8.

Myers TR, McNeil MM, Ng CS, Li R, Lewis PW, Cano MV. Adverse events following quadrivalent meningococcal CRM-conjugate vaccine (Menveo®) reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), 2010-2015.external icon Vaccine. 2017 Mar 27;35(14):1758-63. Epub 2017 Mar 3.

Su JR, Miller ER, Duffy J, Baer BM, Cano MV. Notes from the Field: Administration Error Involving a Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine—United States, March 1, 2010-September 22, 2015.external icon MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Feb 19;65(6):161-2.

Yih WK, Weintraub E, Kulldorff M. No risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome found after meningococcal conjugate vaccination in two large cohort studiesexternal icon Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012 Dec;21(12):1359-60.

Velentgas P, Amato AA, Bohn RL, Chan KA, Cochrane T, Funch DP, Dashevsky I, Duddy AL, Gladowski P, Greenberg SA, Kramer JM, McMahill-Walraven C, Nakasato C, Spettell CM, Syat BL, Wahl PM, Walker AM, Zhang F, Brown JS, Platt R. Risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after meningococcal conjugate vaccinationexternal icon Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012 Dec;21(12):1350-8. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

CDC. Update: Guillain-Barré syndrome among recipients of Menactra meningococcal conjugate vaccine – United States, June 2005-September 2006.external icon MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006 Oct 20;55(41):1120-4.

CDC. Update: Guillain-Barré syndrome among recipients of Menactra meningococcal conjugate vaccine – United States, October 2005-February 2006.external icon MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006 Apr 7;55(13):364-6.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guillain-Barré Syndrome among recipients of Menactra meningococcal conjugate vaccine- United States, June-July 2005. MMWR. 2005 Oct 6:54(Dispatch);1-3.