Meningococcal meningitis is swelling of the tissues that surround the brain and spinal column, caused by infection with a certain type of bacteria.
These bacteria can also cause infection throughout the body, known as invasive meningococcal disease. This condition can lead to deafness, nervous system problems, amputations, and even death. Each year in the US there are about 4,100 cases of meningitis and about 400 cases of invasive meningococcal disease. While these diseases are most common in very young children, we do see increases in cases in adolescents and young adults. Because tweens, teens, and young adults are at risk, we start vaccinating against these bacteria at age 11.
Tweens and teens should get two doses of the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, on at 11-12 years and a second at 16 years. This vaccine should be given to all adolescents.
Effectiveness & Safety
Most adolescents who receive the meningococcal vaccine show protective levels of antibodies that prevent disease. Even five years after vaccination, between 56% and 72% of adolescents have protective levels of these antibodies. The meningococcal vaccine is very safe. The most frequently reported side effects after meningococcal vaccination are fever, headache, redness at the injection site, and dizziness. Studies of over 1,000,000 doses have shown no association with Guillian-Barre Syndrome – a nerve disorder – and that it is safe to give with other vaccines.
While bacterial meningitis and meningococcal disease is rare, it can be very severe. The best way to protect your child is to receive the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine today.