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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 vaccination is not required in North Carolina.

Additional Resources:

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