Getting a vaccine is the best way to prevent meningococcal meningitis infection. Recently, physicians have changed the recommendations for getting the vaccine. It is now given routinely to adolescents, preferably at age 11–12 years, with a booster dose at age 16 years. People at high risk for infection should get the vaccine in two doses, given 2 months apart. See below for high-risk groups.
There are three vaccines available in the United States for meningococcal protection, preventing the same four strains of the disease. These vaccines are sometimes referred to as tetravalent vaccines. Menomune (Sanofi), which is also known as meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV or MPSV4), has been available since the 1970s and is the vaccine recommended for persons older than 55 years and pregnant women who need protection from the disease. This polysaccharide vaccine appears to offer protection from 3–5 years.
The newer vaccines Menactra (Sanofi) and Menveo (Novartis), also known as MCV4, contribute to a reduction in the bacterial carriage in the nose and throat and a longer duration of immunity. MCV4 is licensed for people aged 2–55 years: (Menactra for ages 2–55 years; Menveo for ages 11–55 years).
You should receive the MCV4 vaccine if:
Individuals should not receive any of the meningococcal vaccines if they have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous vaccine. MCV4 should not be given to pregnant women. MPSV4 is safe for pregnant women. Those with fever or serious illness should postpone getting the vaccine.
For more information about meningitis, visit the CDC's section on Meningitis
As many as half the people who get meningococcal vaccines have mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. If these problems occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days. They are more common after MCV4 than after MPSV4.
A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a fever. Serious allergic reactions, within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot, are very rare.
For more information regarding meningococcal vaccine safety, visit CDC's webpage Meningococcal Vaccine Safety