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Meningococcal Vaccine for Teens

Experts recommend the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for children when they are age 11 or 12. Teens who have not yet had this shot also need it. That's especially the case if they are at risk for getting meningitis or have a weakened immune system. Your child should then have a booster shot at age 16, or 5 years after the first vaccine. If your child gets the first shot at age 16 or older, a booster dose is not needed.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease includes infections of the bloodstream and meningitis. Meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that can affect the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can can cause death in 10% to 15% of people who get it. Even if your child takes antibiotics, meningitis can cause serious complications. These are the loss of fingers and toes, brain damage, seizures, strokes, or deafness.

The vaccine prevents many, but not all meningococcal infections. It is made from parts of dead meningococcal bacteria. Your child can't become infected with the disease by getting the shot. Antibiotics for meningococci would likely be helpful against strains for which the vaccines are not effective.

The vaccine helps your child's body build its defense against future infections. This defense system includes antibodies that his or her body makes to fight specific infections. This shot helps your child's body make the antibodies that fight off meningitis.

Vaccine recommendations

The vaccine is recommended for:

  • Children at least 11 years old with booster shot at age 16 

  • People going to certain countries, including parts of Africa

  • College students

  • People living close together, such as in a dormitory on a college campus or in military barracks

  • People who don't have healthy immune systems

  • People who don't have a spleen or their spleen does not work right

  • People who work with or study meningococcal diseases in the lab

The shot is not recommended if your child:

  • Had a prior bad reaction to the meningococcal vaccine

  • Is moderately or severely ill at the time of getting the vaccine 

 The shot has a few risks. They are:

  • Soreness at the site of the injection

  • Swelling where the shot was given

  • Low fever

  • Rare allergic reactions

Over-the-counter pain medicine is often enough to ease any pain and swelling after your child gets the shot. Call your healthcare provider if your child has a high fever, vomiting, or lasting tiredness. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2018
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