Meningococcal (Meningitis)

Meningococcal (Meningitis) Disease Information

Meningococcal disease is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. It is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, especially in children age 2 to 18 years old. Symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, eye sensitivity to light, purple-spotted rash, drop in blood pressure, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Meningococcal bacteria are spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing.

Even with antibiotic treatment, 10 percent to 15 percent of people who become infected will die. As many as 20 percent of people who survive the infection will lose a limb, become deaf, or have serious long-term medical conditions.

Meningococcal (Meningitis) Vaccine Information

There are two meningococcal vaccines:

  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) has been available since the 1970s and its use is limited.
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), a newer vaccine, is expected to provide longer-lasting protection and more effective prevention against the spread of meningococcal disease than MPSV4.

MCV4 is the preferred vaccine for people 2 through 55 years old. MPSV4 can be used when MCV4 is not available.

MPSV4 is given as an injection into the arm underneath the skin, which is known as a subcutaneous (SC) injection. MCV4 is given as an injection into the arm or thigh muscle, which is known as an intramuscular (IM) injection.

Who Should Receive the Meningococcal (Meningitis) Vaccine?

Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4):

  • Children ages 11 or 12 are to receive a dose of meningitis vaccine and be revaccinated with a booster at 16 years old.
  • If the first dose is given between 13 and 15 years of age, the booster should be given between 16 and 18. If the first dose is given after the 16th birthday, a booster is not needed.
  • Anyone who wants to decrease their risk of meningococcal disease.
  • People 2-55 years old who are at increased risk, including:
    • - First-year college students living in dormitories
    • - U.S. military recruits
    • - Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
    • - People traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common
    • - Those with a damaged spleen or no spleen
    • - People with a terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder)

Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (MPSV4):

  • Children with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a severe paralytic illness also called GBS, who are at increased risk, including:
    • - Children with a damaged spleen or no spleen
    • - Children with a terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder)
    • - Children who plan to travel or live in countries where meningococcal disease is prevalent
  • Adults older than 55 who are at increased risk

Meningococcal (Meningitis) Vaccination Schedule

Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (MPSV4)

  • MPSV4 can be used if someone has a permanent contraindication or precaution, or in adults 56 years old or older.

Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4)

  • Routine vaccination of adolescents, preferably at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose at age 16.
  • 2-dose primary series administered 2 months apart for persons aged 2-54 years with persistent complement component deficiency, functional or anatomic asplenia, and for adolescents with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Meningococcal vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Side Effects

Mild-to-Moderate Problems

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever, muscle aches, and drowsiness

Severe Problems (Rare)

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (For those who received MCV4)
  • Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
    • - Difficulty breathing
    • - Wheezing
    • - Hives
    • - Pale skin
    • - Fast heartbeat
    • - Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

It is extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

Who Should Not Receive the Meningococcal (Meningitis) Vaccine?

  • Those with moderate or severe illness (for example, a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs) should not receive the vaccine until symptoms of the illness improve.
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should ask their doctor if they should receive the vaccine.
  • Anyone who has ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) should check with their doctor before getting MCV4.
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Additional Information

Tell your doctor or a healthcare provider if the person getting the vaccine has any severe allergies.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at, for more vaccine information.

This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to contact your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider for more information about human papillomavirus. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.


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). January 28, Accessed April 2008.

Schedule a vaccination

Walgreens Clinic Scheduler