Meningococcal Disease and Prevention
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness. It spreads through close contact by coughing, kissing, or sharing anything by mouth, such as water bottles, eating utensils, lip balm, or toothbrushes. It can cause pneumonia, blood infections, and meningitis (swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord). Severe disease can cause brain damage, loss of hearing or limbs, and death. Fortunately, this life-threatening infection is rare – we usually have only about 20 to 30 reported cases each year in Washington. Adolescents and young adults are more likely to get meningococcal disease, especially if they live in group settings like college dorms.
There are two types of vaccines that protect against several kinds of meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)
MCV4 protects your child against the four most common types of bacteria that cause disease. MCV4 is a routine recommendation for all children aged 11 to 12 years, with a booster for teens aged 16 to 18. Teens who did not get their first dose at the right time should get it as soon as possible. Teens with high-risk conditions like weak immune systems may need more doses.
Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB)
MenB protects against most meningococcal B strains. It may be given to teens and adults aged 16 to 23 who have rare health conditions, who are at increased risk during a meningococcal B disease outbreak or based on shared decision making with your health care provider.
Where can I find the meningococcal vaccine?
Ask your doctor, nurse, or local health department to find out more about HPV vaccine and where you can get it. Washington provides all recommended vaccines at no cost for kids through age 18 through the Childhood Vaccine Program. Participating providers may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask to have it waived. This provider map can be used to find providers in the Childhood Vaccine Program.
Learn more about meningococcal disease and how to prevent it: