Meningococcal Vaccines
Protecting you from Bacterial Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by a virus or bacterial infection. Bacterial meningitis is usually more severe than viral meningitis. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis. Vaccines are available to help protect against some forms bacterial meningitis.


Neisseria meningitidis is one type of bacteria that causes both meningitis and a serious blood infection called meningococcal disease. Anyone can get meningococcal disease. It is most common in infants less than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions, such as someone who has had their spleen removed. College freshmen who live in dormitories also have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, about 1 out of every ten people who get the disease may die from it, and many others are affected for life. They may lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally impaired, or suffer seizures or strokes. This is why preventing the disease through use of meningococcal vaccines is important for people at highest risk.

The Meningococcal Vaccines

MCV-4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine)

MCV4 vaccine is experiencing a high volume of demand. Vaccine is being allocated in both the public and private sectors based on estimates of monthly needs as well as available supply. The supply and demand mismatch is expected to be short term. Updates on supply and allocations will be provided when available.


• Licensed for use in the United States in early 2005
• Licensed for people age 11 to 55 years of age
• Expected to provide longer-lasting protection from meningococcal disease
• May also be better at preventing the spread of disease from person to person

MPSV-4 (meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine)

• Used in the United States since the 1970s
• Licensed for children older than 2 years of age as well as adolescents and adults.

Both vaccines

  • Protect more than 90 percent of those who get the vaccine.
  • 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.

Meningococcal vaccines cannot prevent all types of the disease. But they do protect many people who might become sick if they didn't get the vaccine.

Who Should Get the New Vaccine?

The new vaccine, MCV-4, is recommended for:



  • 11 - 12-year-olds at their routine preadolescent check-up
  • If not previously vaccinated, adolescents should be vaccinated before they enter high school, at around 15 years of age
  • Other adolescents who want to lower their risk of meningococcal disease

People who have an elevated risk of meningococcal disease

  • College freshmen living in dormitories
  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to isolates of N. meningitidis
  • Military recruits
  • People who travel to, or live in countries where meningococcal disease is very common.
  • Anyone whose spleen has been damaged or removed and persons with certain other immune system disorders.
  • Persons advised to receive vaccination during an outbreak

Who Should NOT Get the New Vaccine?


  • Anyone who has ever had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a previous dose of either meningococcal vaccine should not get another dose.
  • Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should probably wait until they recover. Ask your doctor or nurse. People with a mild illness can usually get the vaccine.
  • Meningococcal vaccines may be given to pregnant women. However, MCV-4 is a new vaccine and has not been studied in pregnant women as much as MPSV-4 has.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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