Why does my preteen or teen need to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease can be devastating and often—and unexpectedly—strikes otherwise healthy people. Although meningococcal disease is uncommon, teens and young adults 16 through 23 years old are at increased risk for getting sick. Meningococcal bacteria can cause severe disease, including infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and blood (septicemia). Meningococcal disease can result in permanent disabilities, like hearing loss, learning disabilities, loss of limbs, and sometimes even death.
Is there one meningococcal vaccine that can help protect my child from all common types of meningococcal disease?
No. There are vaccines to protect against the three most common serogroups (B, C, and Y) of meningococcal disease in the United States. Some meningococcal vaccines for preteens and teens are designed to protect against four serogroups (A, C, W, and Y), while others help protect against one serogroup (B). There is not a meningococcal vaccine that offers protection against all common serogroups in one shot.
CDC recommends all 11 to 12 year olds should receive a single dose of a meningococcal conjugate vaccine (protects against serogroups A, C, W, and Y). Since protection decreases over time, a booster dose is recommended at age 16 so teens continue to have protection during the ages when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease. Teens and young adults (16 through 23 year olds) may also receive a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, preferably at 16 through 18 years old. Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines require more than one dose for maximum protection.
Talk with your teen’s clinician about meningococcal vaccination to help protect your child’s health.
Meningococcal Disease Causes Serious Infections
Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. The most common illnesses are infections of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (septicemia).
Symptoms of Meningococcal Disease Can Appear Quickly
Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis may include sudden onset of a high fever, headache, or stiff neck. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion. Symptoms of meningococcal septicemia include fever, tiredness (fatigue), vomiting, and a dark purple rash. If you think you or your child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.
Early Diagnosis and Treatment Are Very Important
Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics (medicines that kill bacteria in the body). However, even with antibiotic treatment, 10 to 15 out of 100 people with meningococcal disease will die. About 11 to 19 out of every 100 survivors will have long-term disabilities. These disabilities can include loss of limb(s), deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage.
Meningococcal Disease Spreads from Person to Person
People spread the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (such as saliva or spit). Even people who are not sick can have the bacteria in their noses and throats and spread the bacteria. Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu. People do not catch them through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been.
Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Are Rare
Only about 2 or 3 out of 100 meningococcal disease cases occur as part of an outbreak. However, outbreaks are unpredictable and the outcomes can be devastating to affected communities and organizations. Meningococcal outbreaks can occur in communities, schools, colleges, prisons, and other populations.
Can my child receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine and a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine at the same time?
Yes. Your child can receive meningococcal conjugate and serogroup B meningococcal vaccines during the same visit, but preferably in different arms. CDC does not recommend serogroup B meningococcal vaccine until age 16 years, so it’s possible your child will get this vaccine and the booster dose of a meningococcal conjugate vaccine at the same visit.
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them. A child is eligible for the program if they are younger than 19 years of age and meet one of the following requirements:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Underinsured (have health insurance that does not cover vaccines or does not cover certain vaccines)
The Public Health offices do carry this vaccine for a reduced cost if you meet the above criteria.
–All information on this page is taken from the CDC.