Meningococcal/Diphtheria Vaccine

What is the Meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness that is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in American children at the age of two through 18. Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, whereas the meningococcal disease can cause blood infections.

What does the meningococcal vaccine do?

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is expected to give better, longer-lasting protection from meningococcal disease and is better at preventing the spread of the disease from person to person.

Why should I get the vaccine?

While meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin, about one out of every ten people who get the disease will either die from it or be affected for life. This is why preventing the disease through the use of the vaccine is crucial for people at highest risk — those between the ages of two and 55.

Who is the vaccine recommended for?

A dose of MCV4 is recommended for all children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age. This dose usually is given during the routine preadolescent immunization visit (at 11 to 12 years of age). But those who did not get the vaccine during this visit should get it at the earliest opportunity.

Other people who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and should receive the vaccine include:

  • College freshmen living in dormitories
  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • US 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 terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder)
  • People who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak

Who shouldn’t get the vaccine?

  • Anyone who has ever had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of the meningococcal vaccine
  • Anyone who has a severe, life-threatening allergy to any vaccine component
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time of the scheduled dose should wait until they recover completely
  • Anyone who has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome should talk with their doctor before getting the vaccine

Are there any potential side effects or risks associated with MCV4?

The risk of the meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. Mild problems include redness or pain at the injection site or a fever. Severe, yet extremely rare, problems can include allergic reactions within a few minutes or hours after the injection, or a serious nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (or GBS).