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Meningococcal (muh-nin-jeh-KOK-el) disease used to cause thousands of serious infections every year. Thanks to vaccines, there are fewer cases of meningococcal disease in the United States than ever before.
There are 2 types of meningococcal vaccines:
Meningococcal disease is rare, but people do get it — and teens, young adults, and people with certain health conditions are at increased risk. Meningococcal disease can cause serious infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord or the blood.
Protection from these infections is especially important because they can quickly become very dangerous — in fact, they can be deadly in just a few hours.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria. Some people get the germs that cause meningococcal disease, but don’t get sick — these people are called “carriers.” But others get meningococcal disease, which can cause serious infections. The most common are meningitis and septicemia.
Meningococcal meningitis is inflammation of the thin lining that covers the brain and spinal cord. Some common symptoms include:
Meningococcal septicemia is an infection of the bloodstream that causes bleeding into the skin and organs. Some common symptoms include:
As many as 1 in 5 people who survive meningococcal disease will have long-term disabilities — like hearing loss or brain damage.
Meningococcal bacteria spread through saliva or spit, usually through:
All preteens and teens need to get the meningococcal vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
Meningococcal vaccines are also recommended for people at increased risk for meningococcal disease. This may include people who:
The MenACWY vaccine is recommended for:
The MenB vaccine is recommended for children and adults age 10 years and older who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease (doses may vary). In addition, all teens may be vaccinated with a MenB vaccine, preferably at age 16 through 18. Multiple doses are required and the same brand must be used for all doses.
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from meningococcal disease.
You should not get a meningococcal vaccine if you have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the meningococcal vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
If you’re sick, you may need to wait until you’re feeling better to get the meningococcal vaccine.
Side effects from the meningococcal vaccines are usually mild and go away in a few days.
Side effects of the MenACWY vaccine may include:
Side effects of the MenB vaccine may include:
Like any medicine, there’s a very small chance that meningococcal vaccines could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting a meningococcal vaccine is much safer than getting meningococcal disease. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines. Read the VISs for vaccines that protect against meningococcal disease:
Last reviewed: January 2018