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North Carolina Immunization Branch

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Meningococcal Disease

The Disease

Meningitis is a contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria and is spread through air droplets and direct contact with infected persons. It can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing items like drinking glasses, lip balm, eating utensils or cigarettes.  Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk of contracting this disease. Invasive meningococcal disease occurs in three common forms: meningitis, blood infection and pneumonia; other forms account for a small percentage of cases.

The Vaccine

Meningococcal vaccines protect against most types of meningococcal disease, although they do not prevent all cases. There are two kinds of vaccines that protect against meningitis available in the United States: meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine and meningococcal conjugate vaccine.

Who Should get Vaccinated?

Children 2 through 10 years of age should receive two doses of meningococcal vaccine only if they are at increased risk for the disease.

All 11- through12-year-old adolescents should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). A booster dose should be given at age 16 years. For adolescents who receive the first dose at age 13 through 15 years, a one-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at age 16 through 18 years, before the peak in increased risk. Adolescents who receive their first dose of MCV4 at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.

Adults should get meningitis vaccine if they:

  • Are a college freshmen living in a dormitory
  • Are a military recruit
  • Have a damaged spleen or your spleen has been removed
  • Have terminalcomplement deficiency
  • Are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis (the causal pathogen)
  • Are traveling or residing in countries in which the disease is common.

North Carolina Requirements

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine - two doses: one dose is required for individuals entering the seventh grade or by 12 years of age, whichever comes first, on or after July 1, 2015. A booster dose is required by 17 years of age or by entering the 12th grade. However:

  • The first dose does not apply to individuals who entered seventh grade before July 1, 2015.
  • The booster dose does not apply to individuals who entered the 12th grade before August 1, 2020.
  • If the first dose is administered on or after the 16th birthday, a booster dose is not required.
  • An individual born before January 1, 2003 shall not be required to receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine.

Additional Resources:

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