Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages.
See www.immunize.org/vis Hojas de información sobre vacunas están disponibles en español y en muchos otros idiomas. Visite www.immunize.org/vis
1. What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness. It is a leading cause of
bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States.
Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and the spinal cord.
Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections. About 1,000–1,200
people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they
are treated with antibiotics, 10–15% of these people die. Of those who
live, another 11%–19% lose their arms or legs, have problems with
their nervous systems, become deaf, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants less
than one year of age and people 16–21 years. Children with certain medical
conditions, such as lack of a spleen, have an increased risk of getting
meningococcal disease. College freshmen living in dorms are also at
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still,
many people who get the disease die from it, and many others are affected
for life. This is why preventing the disease through use of meningococcal
vaccine is important for people at highest risk.
2. Meningococcal vaccine
There are two kinds of meningococcal vaccine in the U.S.:
• Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is the preferred vaccine for
people 55 years of age and younger.
• Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) has been available since
the 1970s. It is the only meningococcal vaccine licensed for people older
than 55. Both vaccines can prevent 4 types of meningococcal disease,
including 2 of the 3 types most common in the United States and a type
that causes epidemics in Africa. There are other types of meningococcal
disease; the vaccines do not protect against these.
3. Who should get meningococcal vaccine and when?
Two doses of MCV4 are recommended for adolescents 11 through 18 years
of age: the first dose at 11 or 12 years of age, with a booster dose at age
16. Adolescents in this age group with HIV infection should get three doses:
2 doses 2 months apart at 11 or 12 years, plus a booster at age 16.
If the first dose (or series) is given between 13 and 15 years of age, the
booster should be given between 16 and 18. If the first dose (or series) is
given after the 16th birthday, a booster is not needed.
Other people at increased risk
• College freshmen living in dormitories. • Laboratory personnel who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria. • U.S. military recruits. • Anyone traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal
disease is common, such as parts of Africa. • Anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed. • Anyone who has persistent complement component deficiency (an immune
system disorder). • People who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.
Children between 9 and 23 months of age, and anyone else with certain
medical conditions need 2 doses for adequate protection. Ask your doctor
about the number and timing of doses, and the need for booster doses. MCV4
is the preferred vaccine for people in these groups who are 9 months through
55 years of age. MPSV4 can be used for adults older than 55.
4. Some people should not get meningococcal vaccine or should wait.
• Anyone who has ever had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a
previous dose of MCV4 or MPSV4 vaccine should not get another dose of
• Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any vaccine
component should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any
• Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled
should probably wait until they recover. Ask your doctor. People with a mild
illness can usually get the vaccine.
• Meningococcal vaccines may be given to pregnant women. MCV4 is a fairly
new vaccine and has not been studied in pregnant women as much as
MPSV4 has. It should be used only if clearly needed. The manufacturers of
MCV4 maintainpregnancy registries for women who are vaccinated while
pregnant. Except forchildren with sickle cell disease or without a working
spleen, meningococcal vaccines may be given at the same time as other
5. What are the risks from meningococcal vaccines?
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as
severe allergic reactions. The risk of meningococcal vaccine causing serious
harm, or death, is extremely small. Brief fainting spells and related symptoms
(such as jerking or seizure-like movements) can follow a vaccination. They
happen most often with adolescents, and they can result in falls and injuries.
Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes aftergetting the shot—especially
if you feel faint—can help prevent these injuries.
As many as half the people who get meningococcal vaccines have mild side
effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. If these problems
occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days. They are more common after MCV4
than after MPSV4. A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a mild fever.
Serious allergic reactions, within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot,
are very rare.
6. What if there is a serious reaction?
What should I look for?
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic
reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes. Signs of a severe allergic
reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty
breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start
a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
• If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t
wait, call 9-1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call
your doctor. • Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event
Reporting System (VAERS).
Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
7. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal
program that was created tocompensate people who may have been
injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can
learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling
1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at
8. How can I learn more?
• Ask your doctor. • Call your local or state health department. • Contact the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or - Visit CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines