Frequently Asked Questions
Meningococcal disease is serious and can be deadly. The best way to prevent meningococcal disease is vaccination. To be fully protected, two vaccines are needed – one vaccine for type B and one vaccine for types A, C, W, and Y.
The data and recommendations about meningococcal type B vaccination are evolving rapidly. Several other countries including the United Kingdom and Canada already recommend vaccination for infants and other age groups. In the U.S., the vaccine is now available for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 10-25, with special recommendation for ages 16-23. Parents, adolescents, and young adults should talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated and keep up to date on the latest information.
About one in ten people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat (carriers). These people can unknowingly transmit the bacteria to other healthy individuals who may develop the disease. Transmission typically occurs through close contact like coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating utensils or drinks.
Meningococcal disease occurs most frequently in children younger than 1 year old, and also occurs more frequently in adolescents or young adults ages 16-23.
Meningococcal disease treatment involves early antibiotics and supportive care such as breathing machines and medications to treat low blood pressure. However, even early treatment may not prevent disability or death.
Around 1 in 10 people with meningococcal disease will not survive even with excellent medical care and antibiotics. Additionally, around 1 in 5 people who do survive will have serious consequences. Survivors may suffer from permanent disability, including brain damage, hearing loss, amputation, and loss of kidney function.
There are five subtypes (serogroups) of bacteria that cause most cases of meningococcal disease: serogroups A, B, C, W, and Y.
In 2019, meningococcal disease affected nearly 400 people in the U.S. Furthermore, 30-40% of these cases led to death, severe brain damage, or amputations.
Meningitis Serogroup B (Men B) causes more than one in three cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S. Men B is the most common cause of meningococcal disease in infants and adolescents. There are approximately 150-200 cases of Men B annually in the U.S., including outbreaks on multiple college campuses over the past 5 years.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC recommend all adolescents and young adults aged 16–23 years may be vaccinated with MenB vaccines to provide protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease.
The ACIP and CDC currently recommend routine use of MenB vaccines among persons aged ≥10 years who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease, including persons who have persistent complement component deficiencies; persons who have anatomic or functional asplenia; microbiologists who routinely are exposed to isolates of Neisseria meningitidis; and persons identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak.
As a first step, the vaccine was FDA approved in the United States between the ages of 10 and 25, with special recommendation between the ages of 16 and 23. This is in contrast to several other countries including the United Kingdom and Canada, which already recommend vaccination for infants and other age groups. Recently, a Meningitis B vaccine received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fast-track approval in the 2- to 10-year-old population; research is ongoing. Speak to your pediatrician for any questions and further information as it becomes available.