Four meningococcal vaccines against N. meningitidis are available in the United States:
- Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4 or Menomune®) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been available since 1981.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4 or Menactra™) was licensed in 2005.
- A new meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY-CRM or Menveo®) was licensed in 2010.
- Meningococcal bivalent vaccine is available in combination with a Hib vaccine (as MenHibrix®), which was approved in 2012.
MPSV-4 and MCV-4 vaccines can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types most common in the United States (serogroups C, Y, and W-135) and a type that causes epidemics in Africa (serogroup A). The bivalent vaccine protects against only two types (C and Y).
These vaccines cannot prevent all types of the disease, but they do protect many people who might become sick otherwise.
A meningococcal conjugate vaccine (either Menactra or Menveo) is recommended for all children at their routine preadolescent visit (11 to 12 years of age). For those who have never gotten the vaccine, a dose is recommended upon entering high school. Other adolescents who want to decrease their risk of meningococcal meningitis can also get this vaccine.
Other people at increased risk, and for whom vaccination is recommended, include:
- College freshmen living in dormitories
- Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
- U.S. military recruits
- Anyone who has a damaged spleen or whose spleen has been removed
- Anyone who has terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder)
- Anyone who is traveling to countries that have an outbreak of meningococcal disease
- Those who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.
Menveo is approved for people 2 through 55 years of age, Menactra is approved for people 9 months through 55 years of age, and Menomune is approved for people age 2 years and older. MenHibrix is approved for use in children age 6 weeks through 18 months of age.
Although large epidemics of meningococcal meningitis do not occur in the United States, some countries experience large, periodic epidemics. Overseas travelers should check to see if a meningococcal meningitis vaccine is recommended for their destination. Travelers should receive this vaccine at least one week before departure, if possible.