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You can protect yourself against certain kinds of meningitis.  There is a vaccine for meningitis caused by four of the types of bacteria that cause this severe illness.

Did You Know

  • The number of outbreaks of this type of meningitis on college campuses have been increasing over the last several years.
  • Research has shown that the following may increase your risk of infection as college students:
  • Passive/active smoking, Binge drinking, Bar patronage, Dormitory living

Meningococcal Vaccine

Why get vaccinated ?
  • Meningococcal disease is a serious illness, caused by a bacteria. It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord coverings. Meningococcal disease can also cause blood infections.

  • About 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. 10-15% of these people die, in spite of treatment with antibiotics, of those who live, another 10% lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous system, 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 in people with certain medical conditions. College freshman, particularly those living in dormitories, have a slightly increased risk of getting meningococcal disease.

  • Menningococcal vaccine can prevent 2 or the 3 important types of meningococcal disease in older children and adults. Menningococcal vaccine is not effective in preventing all types of the disease. But it does help to protect many people who might become sick if they don't get the vaccine.

  • Drugs such as penicillin can be used to treat meningococcal infection. 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 it is important that people with the highest risk for meningococcal disease get the vaccine.

Who should get meningococcal vaccine and when?

  • Meningococcal vaccine is not routinely recommended for people. People who should get the vaccine  include: U.S. Military recruits, people who might be affected during an outbreak of certain types of meningococcal disease, anyone traveling to, or living in, apart of the world where meningococcal disease is common such as West Africa, anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed, and anyone who has a terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder).

  • The vaccine should also be considered for: some laboratory workers who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria.

  • The vaccine may also be given to college students who choose to be vaccinated. College freshman, especially those who live in dormitories, and their parents should discuss the risk and benefits of vaccination with their health care providers.

How many doses will I need?

  • For people 2 years of age and over: 1 dose (Sometimes an additional dose is recommended for people who continue to be at high risk.)

    Some people should not get the vaccine or should wait

  • People should not get meningococcal vaccine if they have ever had a serious allergic reaction to previous dose of the vaccine.

  • People who are mildly ill at the time the shot is scheduled can still get meningococcal vaccine. People with moderate or severe illnesses should usually wait until  they recover. Your provider can advise you.

  • Meningococcal vaccine may be given to pregnant women.

What are the risk from meningococcal vaccine ?

  • A vaccine, like any medicine is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of the meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

  • Getting meningococcal vaccine is much safer than getting the disease.

  • Mild problems: Some people who get meningococcal vaccine have mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. These symptoms usually last for 1-2 days.  A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a fever.

What if there is a serious reaction?

  • Look for any unusual condition, such as a severe allergic reaction, high fever, or unusual behavior. if a serious allergic reaction occurred, it would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, weakness, hoarseness or wheezing, a fast heart beat, hives, dizziness, paleness, or swelling of the throat.

What should I do in case of a serious reaction?

  • Call your health care provider, or get the person to the doctor right away. Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccine was given. Ask your health care provider to file a Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) form, or call VAERS yourself at 1-800-822-7967.

National Center for Infectious Disease/ Meningococcal Disease Website