Meningococcal disease, known as meningitis, is an uncommon but serious illness that can cause life-threatening complications and even death.1 There are two different types of vaccinations needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis (one for groups A, C, W, and Y, and another for group B),2 but some doctors may not mention both, and not all parents know to ask for them.3
Get the facts and ask the right questions to "B sure" about meningitis B vaccination.
Meningitis is caused by bacteria carried in the nose or back of throat that can spread through saliva and close contact.1 Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of the flu but can progress quickly and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.4,6 Meningitis can attack the lining of the brain and spinal cord and, in some cases, cause a serious infection of the blood (sepsis).5
Anyone can get meningitis, but rates of the disease peak in adolescence, with the highest rates among teens and young adults 16-23 years old.7 Meningitis can spread through behaviors such as living in close quarters, coughing, sneezing, kissing, and sharing drinks or utensils.1,8 Colleges are environments prone to the spread of meningitis B.9
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is the best defense against meningococcal disease.10 Because most colleges still do not require meningitis B vaccination, many teens and young adults may miss vaccination.11.
There are two different types of vaccinations needed to help protect against the 5 vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis (one for groups A, C, W, and Y and another for group B). Your child may have gotten a meningitis vaccination at a younger age, but meningitis B vaccination has only been available since 2014, and they may not have received it.11 CDC currently recommends meningitis B vaccination for adolescents and young adults aged 16-23 years (preferably ages 16-18) based on a conversation between a healthcare provider and a patient.13
Even though the decision to vaccinate against meningitis B relies on an important conversation between the healthcare provider and parent, not all doctors will mention it.3,13 Ask your child's healthcare provider about meningitis B vaccination.
If you aren’t sure whether your teen or young adult has received meningitis B vaccination, contact their healthcare provider’s office and ask for your child’s vaccination records. If your child hasn’t had meningitis B vaccination yet, plan to ask about it at their next appointment. If they don’t have an upcoming appointment, don’t be afraid to make one!
"Has my child had both types of meningitis vaccinations?"
If records confirm that your teen or young adult hasn't received meningitis B vaccination yet, ask their healthcare provider about vaccination during the appointment. Although uncommon, meningitis can have serious consequences, and according to the CDC, vaccination is the best defense against it.10
"Because of the potentially severe consequences of the disease, I want to ensure my child receives the two different types of vaccinations needed to help protect against meningitis."
Meningitis B vaccination requires multiple doses. After the initial dose, schedule an appointment for the next dose and be sure your teen or young adult keeps the appointment. (Hint: don't be afraid to remind them!)
“In 24 hours, I went from feeling completely healthy to feeling like I had the flu, to feeling too sick to move, to lying in a hospital bed, fighting for my life. At one point, I was given a 20 percent chance of survival. For seven months, I stayed in the hospital in recovery, ultimately losing 80 pounds, as well as all my fingers and both legs. Today, I am an advocate for meningitis vaccination, in hopes that others won't have to go through a similar experience.”
– Jamie Schanbaum, GSK Advocate
“I was preparing to have my daughter Jamie come home from her first semester at college when I got the call every parent fears. She was in the hospital and I needed to get there immediately. When I got there, she was already in an induced coma and fighting to survive. I hope every parent can become informed about meningitis, and learn about the 2 types of vaccinations available to help protect against it.”
– Patsy Schanbaum, GSK Advocate
“I have four children, and they are my whole world. Like all moms, I want to help keep my kids healthy, and vaccinations are one of the ways I’ve tried to do that. I always ask a lot of questions and do my research, so I was surprised when I only recently learned about meningitis B.”
– Soleil Moon Frye, GSK Advocate
The more informed you are, the better equipped you will be to initiate important vaccination conversations with a healthcare professional, and ultimately make the best decisions for your teen or young adult. Start the conversation with your child's healthcare provider.
1. CDC. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html. Accessed June 2023 2. CDC. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Meningococcal Vaccination for Adolescents: Information for Healthcare Professionals. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/adolescent-vaccine.html. Accessed June 2023. 3. Kempe, Alison et al. 2018. Adoption of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine Recommendations. Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-0344. 4. CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html. Accessed June 2023. 5. CDC. Meningococcal Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html. Accessed June 2023. 6. Pelton SI. Meningococcal disease awareness: clinical and epidemiological factors affecting prevention and management in adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2010;46:S9-S15 7. CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Clinical Information. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html. Accessed June 2023. 8. Meningitis. Overview. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508. Accessed June 2023. 9. Gary S Marshall, Amanda F Dempsey, Amit Srivastava, Raul E Isturiz, US College Students Are at Increased Risk for Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease, Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society,piz024, https://doi.org/10.1093/jpids/piz024 10. CDC. Meningococcal disease. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/prevention.html. Accessed June 2023. 11. CDC. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Meningococcal Vaccination for Adolescents: Information for Healthcare Professionals. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/adolescent-vaccine.html. Accessed June 2023. 12. CDC. Enhanced Meningococcal Disease Surveillance Reports 2015-2018. www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/surveillance/index.html#enhancedreports. Accessed June 2023. 13. CDC. ACIP Shared Clinical Decision-Making Recommendations https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/acip-scdm-faqs.html. Accessed June 2023. 14. National Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — National Immunization Survey-Teen, United States, 2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov) https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6933-H.pdf. Reviewed August 21, 2020. Accessed November 2020.