Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness. It is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and the spinal cord.
Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.
About 1,000 – 1,200 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they are treated with antibiotics, 10-15% of these people die. Of those who live, another 11%-19% lose their arms or legs, have problems with their nervous systems, become deaf, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people 16-21 years. Children with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen, have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease. College freshmen living in dorms are also at increased risk.
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, many people who get the disease die from it, and many others are affected for life. This is why preventing the disease through use of meningococcal vaccine is important for people at highest risk.
There are two kinds of meningococcal vaccine in the U.S.:
Both vaccines can prevent 4 types of meningococcal disease, including 2 of the 3 types most common in the United States and a type that causes epidemics in Africa. There are other types of meningococcal disease; the vaccines do not protect against these.
Two doses of MCV4 are recommended for adolescents 11 through 18 years of age: the first dose at 11 or 12 years of age, with a booster dose at age 16.
Adolescents in this age group with HIV infection should get three doses: 2 doses 2 months apart at 11 or 12 years, plus a booster at age 16.
If the first dose (or series) is given between 13 and 15 years of age, the booster should be given between 16 and 18. If the first dose (or series) is given after the 16th birthday, a booster is not needed.
Children between 9 and 23 months of age, and anyone else with certain medical conditions need 2 doses for adequate protection. Ask your doctor about the number and timing of doses, and the need for booster doses.
MCV4 is the preferred vaccine for people in these groups who are 9 months through 55 years of age. MPSV4 can be used for adults older than 55.
Except for children with sickle cell disease or without a working spleen, meningococcal vaccines may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking or seizure-like movements) can follow a vaccination. They happen most often with adolescents, and they can result in falls and injuries.
Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after getting the shot – especially if you feel faint – can help prevent these injuries.
As many as half the people who get meningococcal vaccines have mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given.
If these problems occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days. They are more common after MCV4 than after MPSV4.
A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a mild fever.
Serious allergic reactions, within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot, are very rare.
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website.
Vaccine Information Statement (Interim)
Meningococcal Vaccines (10/14/2011)
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26
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