WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. What is meningococcal disease?
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 fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.
About 1,000 - 2,600 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 survive, another 11-19% lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally retarded, 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 with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen. College freshmen who live in dormitories, and teenagers 15-19 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 dies 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.
2. Meningococcal vaccines
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. 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.
Both vaccines work well, and protect about 90% of people who get them. MCV4 is expected to give betterlonger-lasting protection.
MCV4 should also be better at preventing the disease from spreading from person to person.
3. Who should get meningococcal vaccine and when?
A dose of MCV4 is recommended for children and adolescents 11 through 18 years of age.
This dose is normally given during the routine preadolescent immunization visit (at 11-12 years). But those who did not get the vaccine during this visit should get it at the earliest opportunity.
Meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for other people at increased risk for meningococcal disease:
• College freshmen living in dormitories.
• Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria.
• U.S. military recruits.
• Anyone traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common, such as parts of Africa.
• Anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed.
• Anyone who has terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder).
• People who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.
How Many Doses?
People 2 years of age and older should get 1 dose. Sometimes a second dose is recommended for people who remain at high risk. Ask your provider.
MPSV4 may be recommended for children 3 months to 2 years of age under special circumstances. These children should get 2 doses, 3 months apart.
4. Some people should not get meningococcal vaccine or should wait
• Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine. Tell your provider 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 provider. People with a mild illness can usually get the vaccine.
• Anyone who has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome should talk with their provider before getting MCV4.
• Meningococcal vaccines may be given to pregnant women. However, MCV4 is a new vaccine and has not been studied in pregnant women as much as MPSV4 has. It should be used only if clearly needed.
• Meningococcal vaccines may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
5. What are the risks from meningococcal 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.
6. What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
What should I look for?Any unusual condition, such as a high fever, weakness, or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness.
What should I do?
• Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor right away.
• Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
• Ask your provider to report the reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form. Or you can file this report through the VAERS website at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not provide medical advice.
7. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
A federal program exists to help pay for the care of anyone who has had a rare serious reaction to a vaccine.
For information about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visit their website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.
8. How can I learn more?
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
- Visit CDC’s National Immunization Program website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines
- Visit CDC’s meningococcal disease website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/meningococcal_g.htm
- Visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health website at wwwn.cdc.gov/travel