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Meningococcal Disease & Vaccine Quick Facts

meningococcal vaccine
Image source: CDC PHIL

Meningococcal Disease

  • Meningococcal disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. Most frequently, the illness can result in inflammation of the meninges of the brain (meningitis) and a serious bloodstream infection (septicemia/meningococcemia). Invasive meningococcal disease can also present as arthritis and pneumonia.1
  • Meningococcal disease is not easily spread and requires one to be susceptible to the infection and to have regular close contact with a person who is colonizing the bacteria.2
  • Meningococcal rates are low in the U.S. and have steadily declined since the 1990’s. In 2017, there were approximately 350 cases and 45 deaths (13.1 percent fatality rate) attributed to meningococcal disease.3 Individuals most at risk for contracting meningococcal disease are babies under a year old and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23.4
  • Between 10-20 percent of individuals are asymptomatic carriers and colonize the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease in the back of their throats.5
  • Invasive meningococcal disease may cause permanent injury including brain damage, hearing loss, loss of a limb or death.6 Persons noted to be at highest risk of developing complication from meningococcal disease are those with certain genetic factors, HIV, smokers as well as those who have a family member with the disease.7

Meningococcal Vaccine

  • There are four FDA approved meningococcal vaccines currently available for use in the U.S. Two vaccines, Menectra (Sanofi Pasteur) and Menveo (Novartis/GlaxoSmithKline) conjugate vaccines target serogroups A, C, Y and W-135 meningococcal bacteria and two vaccines, BEXSERO (Novartis/GlaxoSmithKline) and TRUMENBA (Wyeth/Pfizer) recombinant vaccines target serogroup B meningococcal bacteria.8
  • The CDC recommends all children receive their first dose of meningococcal serogroup A, C, Y and W-135 conjugate vaccine at age 11-12 and an additional booster dose at age 16.9 The booster dose recommendation was made in 2010 after studies noted that only 50 percent of adolescents vaccinated at age 11-12 had sufficient vaccine acquired antibodies to protect them against meningococcal disease five years post-vaccination.10
  • The serogroup B recombinant vaccines are available for use and should be considered by adolescents between 16 and 23 years of age, however they are not routinely recommended as part of the vaccination schedule. In 2015, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) declined to routinely recommend vaccination with the serogroup B vaccines. The committee came to this conclusion after evaluating multiple factors including the high number of people that would require vaccination in order to prevent a single case of meningococcal disease, the low rates of the disease, the vaccine’s cost, lack of efficacy and safety data as well as the potential risk that serious adverse reactions would exceed the number of cases potentially prevented from the vaccine.11
  • As of May 31, 2019, there have been more than 32,453 reports of meningococcal vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following meningococcal vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 186 related deaths, 3,267 hospitalizations, and 461 related disabilities.
  • As of July 1, 2019, there had been 84 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following meningococcal vaccination, including 2 deaths and 82 serious injuries.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

  • Menactra (Meningococcal (Groups A, C, Y and W-135) Polysaccharide Diphtheria Toxoid Conjugate Vaccine) Product Insert & Licensing Information
  • Menveo (Meningococcal (Groups A, C, Y, and W-135) Oligosaccharide Diphtheria CRM197 Conjugate Vaccine) Product Insert & Licensing Information
  • BEXSERO (Meningococcal Group B Vaccine) Product Insert & Licensing Information
  • TRUMENBA (Meningococcal Group B Vaccine) Product Insert & Licensing Information

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more.

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more.

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS.

NVIC “Quick Facts” is not a substitute for becoming fully informed about Meningococcal disease, meningitis and the Meningococcal vaccine. NVIC recommends consumers read the more complete information following the "Quick Facts", as well as the vaccine manufacturer product information inserts, and speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child.

« Return to Meningococcal Table of Contents

« Return to Vaccines & Diseases Table of Contents


1 CDC Meningococcal Disease Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

2 CDC. Meningococcal Disease - Causes and Spread to Others. Mar. 28, 2017

3 CDC Enhanced Meningococcal Disease Surveillance report, 2017 : confirmed and probable cases reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, 2017 Nov. 21, 2018

4 CDC Meningococcal Disease - Age as a Risk Factor Mar. 28, 2017

5 The College of Physicians of Philadelphia History of Vaccines – Meningococcal Disease Jan. 25, 2018

6 Ibid

7 CDC Meningococcal Disease – Clinical Features Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

8 FDA Vaccines Licensed for Use in the United States Nov. 16, 2018

9 CDC Vaccines and Preventable Disease – Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know May 19, 2017

10 CDC Updated Recommendations for Use of Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccines --- Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2010 MMWR Jan. 28, 2011; 60(03);72-76

11 CDC Use of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines in Adolescents and Young Adults: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2015 MMWR Oct. 23, 2015;  64(41);1171-6

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