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What is a Meningococcal Vaccine?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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A meningococcal vaccine is a vaccination designed to protect people from infection with meningococcal bacteria. These bacteria can infect the bloodstream and meninges of the brain, leading to death in some cases. Vaccination will protect people against many common strains of bacteria, keeping them as safe as possible from infection. This vaccine is routinely recommended for people between 11-18 years of age and individuals in high risk groups, and it can be obtained at a doctor's office.

The vaccine is produced using compounds found on the outside of the bacterium. It is a very low risk vaccine because bacterial DNA is not introduced, making it impossible for bacteria to replicate in the body. The immune system is instead exposed to common markers on the shell of the bacteria to allow it to recognize them and target them for destruction. There are several meningococcal vaccine products available and a doctor may have a preference for a specific vaccine.

In people between 11-18, there is a naturally higher risk of disease and people should receive vaccines and three year boosters. At-risk individuals between the ages of two and 55 should also be vaccinated. A single dose is enough to provide immunity for three years in children and five years in adults. Vaccines are not recommended for people below the age of two, and limited products are available for people over 55.

People who live in dormitories or barracks, are planning trips, have impaired or missing spleens, work in laboratories, are exposed during outbreaks, or have weakened immune systems should all receive the meningococcal vaccine. These individuals are at increased risk and if they are infected, the course of the infection can be more serious. Meningococcal vaccine can be structured into a regular vaccination schedule to ensure that someone gets booster shots on time. People may find it helpful to keep copies of a vaccination record at home and at the doctor's office.

Some people have side effects like redness and pain around the vaccination site after receiving a vaccination. It is also possible to experience allergies to components of the vaccine or to develop Guillain-Barre syndrome, an unusual autoimmune disease, after receiving a vaccine. People with a history of bad reactions to vaccines should ask their doctors if the meningococcal vaccine is safe for them. It is also not advisable to receive vaccinations while feeling unwell, as the immune system may not be able to safely process the vaccine.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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