Vaccination is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease because once a person is infected, the disease often progresses rapidly to death or serious disability. Therefore, preventing meningococcal disease through vaccination is the most effective approach to avoiding the serious disease. Even early treatment may be ineffective due to the aggressive nature of the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease.
Two vaccines are needed to be fully protected against meningococcal disease.
The first vaccine protects against serogroups A, C, W, and Y (Conjugate Vaccine).
Routine vaccination with the conjugate vaccine is recommended by the CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) at age 11-12 to protect against serogroups A, C, W, and Y. Adolescents should also get a vaccine booster dose at age 16.
The second vaccine protects against serogroup type B (MenB Vaccine).
Until late 2014, there was no vaccine able to protect against MenB. This was particularly problematic as MenB is the leading serogroup that causes meningococcal disease in infants and adolescents. This changed with the breakthrough creation of the MenB vaccine. For the first time, there is near complete coverage to protect against this devastating disease. However, many adolescents and young adults have not received the MenB vaccine since it was just recently approved.
Specifically, in the U.S., the CDC recommends permissive use of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for adolescents and young adults age 16-23, with a preferred age of 16-18. The CDC recommended the type B vaccine in 2015, and therefore many have not yet received the vaccine. According to the CDC, meningococcal disease vaccines are safe and effective. Common side effects of the vaccines are mild, but can include a sore arm, headache, or fatigue. More details on meningococcal disease vaccine safety can be found here on the CDC website here.
Parents and their children should discuss both the conjugate and MenB vaccines with their doctors. For detailed recommendations about vaccination in adolescents and young adults, visit the CDC website.