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Meningococcal Vaccine: The Basics

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Updated January 23, 2009

Meningococcal Vaccine: The Basics

What is it? This vaccine protects against meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

Brand names: There are two slightly different meningococcal vaccines available. Menactra® is one version that is commonly available, and is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). Menomune® is the other version that is commonly available, and is the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4).

Who is it for? The vaccine is recommended for all children from 11 to 18 years old.

How is it given? The meningococcal vaccine is frequently given as a single vaccination at the 11- or 12-year-old checkup. It can be given at any time after that if your teen did not receive it at that time.

What does it do? The meningococcal vaccine protects against infection with the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. This bacteria can cause a dangerous infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord called meningitis. Even with treatment, this form of meningitis can be deadly. The bacteria that causes the meningitis can also cause an infection in the blood stream (bacteremia). Bacteremia can lead to many different complications, including death.

Common side effects of the vaccine: Redness or pain at the injection site, and fever.

Who should not get it: Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of its components. A serious allergic reaction includes difficulty breathing, throat swelling, hives, weakness, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat. It is also recommended that anyone who has ever had Guillian-Barré Syndrome should talk to his or her provider before getting this vaccine. If your teen is moderately ill, it might be best to wait for the vaccine. Ask your provider if you have any questions about whether or not this vaccine is right for your teen.

Sources:

Meningococcal Vaccination. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/default.htm

Meningococcal Vaccines: What You Need to Know. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-mening.pdf

Possible Side-effects from Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm

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