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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 vaccine also need it, especially 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 the first vaccine is given at age 16 or older, a booster dose is not necessary.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease includes meningitis, a serious infection that can affect the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, or infection of the bloodstream. This bacterial infection can cause death in 10% to 15% of people who get sick with meningitis, although some studies report death rates up to 40%. Even if your child takes antibiotics, meningitis can cause serious complications in 11% to 19% of those who survive the infection. These complications include the loss of fingers and toes, brain damage, seizures, strokes, or deafness.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine prevents meningococcal infection. The vaccine is made from parts of dead meningococcal bacteria. Your child can't become infected with the disease by getting the vaccine.

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 vaccine 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 traveling 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 function properly

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

The vaccine is not recommended if your child:

  • Had a previous severe reaction to the meningococcal vaccine

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

 The vaccine has a few risks, including:

  • Soreness at the site of the injection

  • Swelling where the shot was given

  • Low fever

  • Rare allergic reactions

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 9/20/2015
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