Meningitis Vaccine: Which People Should Be Vaccinated? Contraindications and Side Effects

Treatment for a cure for this disease is available, but those who survive may develop serious health problems or disabilities.

Bacterial meningitis is a serious and life-threatening disease that can progress rapidly. This is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord . A bacteria that causes meningitis can also infect the blood.

The disease is transmitted when people exchange saliva, through activities such as kissing or sharing containers for drinks, utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, or come in contact with respiratory or throat secretions.

Meningococcal disease can quickly become life threatening. Two meningitis vaccines protect against four types of meningococcal disease .

An additional type of vaccine protects against serotype B, which also causes meningitis.

Meningococcal vaccine in adolescents

Meningococcal disease can quickly become life threatening, and teens are at higher risk for it.

Of the total number of people who get meningococcal disease each year, one-third are adolescents and young adults.

Between ten and fifteen percent of those who contract the disease will die, even with antibiotic treatment.

Up to 20% will have permanent side effects, such as hearing loss or brain damage . Immunization can help prevent this serious disease.

Meningitis vaccines

There are three meningococcal vaccines available:

  • Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (MPSV4), sold under the brand name Menomune.
  • Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4), sold under the trade names Menactra, MenHibrix, and Menveo.
  • Serogroup B (MenB) meningococcal vaccine, sold as Trumenba and Bexsero.

Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine and Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, and Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine vaccines prevent meningococcal B strain.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine is preferably used in people 55 years of age or younger. The recommendation for teens is one dose at age 11 and one dose at age 16.

The drug is administered intramuscularly. When meningococcal conjugate vaccine is not available, meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine can be used, the administration of these vaccines is subcutaneously, under the skin.

The polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine is the only meningococcal vaccine approved for use in people over 55 years of age.

MenB vaccines are recommended for ages 10-24 for high-risk patients, but can also be used in older adults.

Trumenda is given in three doses, while Bexseero requires two doses.

Population to be vaccinated

A meningococcal vaccine is recommended for:

  • All children 11 to 18 years old or certain younger children who are at high risk.
  • Anyone who has been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.
  • Anyone who travels or lives where meningitis is common, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Military recruits.
  • People with certain immune system disorders or a damaged or missing spleen.


A person should not get the meningococcal vaccine if:

  • You have had a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction to a meningococcal vaccine before or to any component of the vaccine.
  • It is moderately or seriously ill, it must be reprogrammed when the patient is absolutely healthy.
  • You have ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Pregnant women can receive the meningococcal vaccine, but it is only recommended for people with certain immune problems or who may be exposed to meningitis.

With the new vaccines Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine and Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine, there have not been as many studies in pregnant women compared to the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Side Effects of Meningitis Vaccines

Mild side effects occur in about half of those who receive the vaccine. They can include redness or pain where the skin was injected. These side effects do not last more than 1 or 2 days.

Serious side effects are rare and can include a high fever, weakness, and changes in behavior.

Severe allergic reactions can occur within minutes to hours of vaccination. These are signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Urticaria.
  • Pallor.
  • Soft spot.
  • Fast heart beat or dizziness

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious nervous system disorder that has occurred in some people who have received meningococcal conjugate vaccine.

It is so rare that doctors are not sure that there is a clear link to the vaccine.