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 to 1,200 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they are treated with antibiotics, 10 to 15% of these people die. Of those who live, another 11% to 19% lose their arms or legs, have problems with their nervous systems, become deaf or mentally retarded, 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 to 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 increased risk. 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.
What is meningococcal vaccine?
There are two kinds of meningococcal vaccine in the U.S.:
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.
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:
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.
Who should not get meningococcal vaccine or should wait?
Except for children with sickle cell disease or without a working spleen, meningococcal vaccines may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
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 after getting 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.
What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
What should I look for?
Any unusual condition, such as a severe allergic reaction or a high fever. If a severe allergic reaction occurred, it would be within a few minutes to an hour after the shot. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, weakness, hoarseness or wheezing, a fast heart beat, hives, dizziness, paleness, or swelling of the throat.
What should I do?
VAERS does not provide medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was created in 1986.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about fi ling a claim by calling1-800-338-2382or visiting the VICP website at Web Site.
How can I learn more?
Meningococcal Vaccine Information Statement. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Immunization Program. 10/14/11.