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Meningococcal Vaccine

Vaccines to Prevent Meningococcal

  • MPSV4: Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine licensed for those 2 years of age and older (Spanish)
  • MCV4: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine licensed for 9-month olds to 55-year olds (Spanish)
Vaccine Basics

Meningococcal  vaccines can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types most common in the United States and a type that causes epidemics in Africa. Meningococcal vaccines cannot prevent all types of the disease, but they do protect many people who might become sick if they didn't get the vaccine.

For Children

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is recommended for children 9 months through ten years of age who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease.  Children may be at increased risk due to certain medical conditions or because they are traveling to a country with high rates of meningococcal disease. Booster doses may be recommended if your child remains at increased risk. Talk to your child’s health care provider for more information.

For Preteens/Teens

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is routinely recommended for all 11 through 18 year olds. The first dose should be given at 11-12 years of age and a booster dose at 16 years of age. For adolescents who receive the first dose at age 13 through 15 years, a one-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at age 16 through 18 years, before the peak in increased risk. Adolescents who receive their first dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.

For Adults

Either meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine or meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for adults if you:

  • Are a college freshman living in a dormitory
  • Are a military recruit
  • Have a damaged spleen or your spleen has been removed
  • Have terminal complement deficiency
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis (the causal pathogen)
  • Are traveling to or residing in countries in which the disease is common

Booster doses may be recommended for adults who remain at increased risk. Talk to your health care provider for more information.

About Meningococcal

What is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus. Some people carry these bacteria in the back of their nose with no signs or symptoms of disease. But sometimes these bacteria can invade the body causing certain illnesses, which collectively are known as meningococcal disease.

Neisseria meningitidis are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (i.e., coughing, kissing). The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.

The two most severe and common illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis include meningitis and septicemia.

Meningococcal meningitis

A common outcome of meningococcus infection is meningitis. When caused by Neisseria meningitidis it is known as meningococcal meningitis or bacterial meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, become infected and swell.  This is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as

  •  Nausea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  •  Altered mental status (confusion)

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within three to seven days after exposure.

In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to detect. Infants with meningitis may appear slow or inactive, have vomiting, be irritable, or be feeding poorly. As the disease progresses, patients of any age may have seizures.

Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. About ten percent of infected people die from the disease. In non-fatal cases, those affected experience long-term disabilities, such as brain damage or deafness. Preventing the disease through the use of meningococcal vaccine is important.

Meningococcal septicemia

Another common outcome of meningococcus infection is meningococcemia, also known as meningococcal septicemia. This is the more dangerous and deadly of illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis. When Neisseria meningitidis bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, they damage the walls of the blood vessels and cause bleeding into the skin and organs.

Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, cold chills, severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen, rapid breathing, diarrhea — and, in the later stages, a puerperal rash or a petechial rash. Even with antibiotic treatment, people die in about 10-15 percent of cases. Preventing the disease through the use of meningococcal vaccine is important.

Who gets Meningococcal Disease?

Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants younger than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen. College freshmen who live in dormitories, and teenagers and young adults 16 through 21 years old are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.

Can Meningococcal Disease be Treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately. Meningococcal meningitis (also called bacterial meningitis) can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, however, that treatment be started early in the course of the disease.

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Microscopic view of meningococcal.


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