Meningitis (Meningococcal) Vaccine
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is a rare but serious infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and is caused by meningococcal disease, a bacterial illness. Symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, eye sensitivity to light, purple-spotted rash, a drop in blood pressure, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is most common in infants younger than 12 months of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as a removed spleen. College freshman who live in dormitories, and teenagers aged 15 to 19 have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.
Meningitis is potentially fatal. Even with antibiotic treatment, 10-15% of infected people can die. And as many as 20% of people who survive the infection can be expected to lose a limb, become deaf, or have serious long-term medical conditions.
What is the meningitis vaccine?
The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) can prevent four types of meningococcal disease. This vaccine protects about 90% of people who get it. This vaccine is not indicated for treatment of meningococcal infections.
Who should get the meningitis vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all 11-12 years old children be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and booster dose should be given at age 16 years. 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 MCV4 at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.
In addition, the meningitis vaccine is recommended for:
- College freshman living in dormitories
- Anyone who has a damaged or removed spleen
- U.S. military recruits
- Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
- Anyone travelling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common, such as parts of Africa
Who should not get the meningitis vaccine?
- Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of meningococcal vaccine, or to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine.
- Anyone who is moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover.
- Anyone who has ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome should talk to their provider before getting this vaccine.
- The meningitis vaccine should only be given to pregnant women if clearly needed.
What are the side effects of the meningitis vaccine?
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- Fever, muscle aches, and drowsiness
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.
Severe problems (rare):
- Guillain-Barre syndrome (For those who received MCV4)
- Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
The meningitis vaccine is available at:
Healthcare Clinic for patients aged 11-55.1
At Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.
Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.
Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.
Vaccine Information Statement: Meningococcal Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). October 14, 2011. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-mening.pdf. Accessed April 2013.
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