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NC Department of Health and Human Services
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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). Effective August, 1, 2020, a booster dose to protect against meningococcal disease is required for adolescents entering the 12th grade or by 17 years of age, whichever comes first. Adolescents who receive their first dose of MCV4 at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.

For additional information, see our new fact sheet in English , or en Español.

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 terminal complement 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

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 for individuals entering the 12th grade or by 17 years of age, whichever comes first. Individuals who entered seventh grade before July 1, 2015 are not required to receive the first dose. 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. Individuals born before January 1, 2003 shall not be required to receive meningococcal conjugate vaccine.

Additional Resources



Updated: April 14, 2020