Meningococcal disease is a highly contagious bacterial
illness. It can be spread through the air via coughing and sneezing. It can
also be spread directly from one person to another through kissing. This
disease is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children and young
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid around the brain and
spinal cord. It can be extremely serious. Even with antibiotic treatment, people
may die. It can also cause:
Vaccination is the best way to prevent meningococcal
disease. It can affect people of all ages. However, college students living in
dorms are more at risk. This is because they live together in close quarters.
Military personnel living in barracks are at similar risk.
Who Needs Vaccination?
The meningococcal vaccine is recommended for young adults
who will be living in shared spaces. It’s also recommended for people who have:
component deficiency (an immune disorder)
exposed to an outbreak
to travel someplace where the disease is common
Types of Vaccine
This vaccine is offered in two versions in the United
States. Both vaccines are quadrivalent. This means they protect against four
types of meningococcal disease. The vaccines are MCV4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and MPSV4 (meningococcal
MCV4 is the preferred vaccine. It’s recommended for those
between the ages of 11 and 18 and for:
individuals age 2 through 55
freshmen who plan to live in dorms
traveling to high-risk countries
with immune system disorders or spleen damage
The MPSV4 may be used if the MCV4 is not available. In
addition, MPSV4 is licensed for adults over 55 years old. MCV4 may not be used
in adults over 55.
The number of shots you need depends on when you get the
vaccine. If your first dose is before age 16, you will need a booster shot
later. If your first dose is after age 16, you only need one shot.
Teens with HIV receive a three-shot series.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
The several groups of people who shouldn’t get the
meningococcal vaccine are:
who have had an allergic reaction to a previous meningococcal vaccine
who are allergic to any component of the vaccine
who is currently
moderately to severely ill
Pregnant women who need vaccination should get MPSV4. MCV4
may be safe. However, there’s not enough data to be certain.
Potential Side Effects
The risk of serious harm from this vaccine is small.
However, any medication can have side effects. Potential side effects include:
or pain at the site of the shot
allergic reaction (very rare)
Some people, particularly teens, may faint or fall down
after the vaccination is administered. This can cause injuries. It’s a good
idea to sit or lie down for 15 minutes after any vaccination.