As with most vaccines, a meningitis shot often causes temporary — but mild — discomfort. This usually includes soreness in the arm you had the shot in and general fatigue. Most side effects resolve within a day or two.

Meningitis is a serious inflammation of the tissues around your brain and spinal cord (meninges). While viral meningitis is the most common type, bacterial is the more serious infection.

Vaccines have proven an effective tool in lowering the spread and severity of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis vaccines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for most children and teens, as well as some adults in high risk categories.

Read on to learn what you need to know about the different types of meningitis vaccines and who should receive them. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have regarding any side effects.

Meningitis vaccines may be recommended at certain milestones and may be administered during your annual physical. It’s important to stay on top of your or your child’s vaccination schedule, as shots have different regimens and will lose effectiveness if not kept current.

Here’s what getting a meningitis shot usually looks like for a teen or adult:

  • A nurse or healthcare worker will swab the injection site (usually upper arm for adults, thigh for children) with an antiseptic.
  • They’ll make the injection, and you may feel a quick sting. Whether this vaccine hurts may also depend on your individual tolerance for pain.
  • Delivering the vaccine only takes a couple seconds.
  • Afterwards, they’ll clean the area and apply an adhesive bandage.
  • You may be asked to sit for a few minutes to ensure you aren’t feeling faint or have any side effects.

Meningitis vaccination is important in preventing infection and potentially life threatening complications from this disease. There are multiple different causes of the infection, and bacterial meningitis often spreads aggressively — around 10 to 15 percent of cases are fatal.

Here’s a breakdown of the available types of vaccines according to CDC guidelines:

Bacterial strainVaccine nameWho should get it?
neisseria meningitidis
MenB (Bexsero and Trumenba)
MenACWY (Menactra, Menveo, and MenQuadfi)
MenB is a routine vaccination given to anyone 10 years or older, with boosters as needed.

MenACWY is a routine vaccination for children ages 11 and 12, with a booster at 16. It’s also recommended for anyone considered high risk ages 2 months and older.
haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)Hib (ActHIB, Hiberix, and PedvaxHIB)Hib vaccine is usually given to infants in 3-4 doses, beginning at 2 months old.
streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)PCV13 (Prevnar 13), PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23), and recently PCV20 (Prevnar 20, for adults over 65)PCV13 is recommended as a routine vaccination, with doses given at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months. The CDC also recommends it for certain high risk adults.

PPSV23 is recommended for children 2 years and older who are in a high risk category for meningitis, or adults over 65.

Since a meningitis infection can happen in multiple ways, let’s go over what these different types of vaccines mean and why they’re necessary.

Meningococcal vaccines

To help prevent bacterial meningitis (also known as meningococcal disease), your doctor may recommend two types of vaccines: meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) and Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB).

Both offer protection against Neisseria meningitidis bacteria that could cause this disease. As their names suggest, the MenACWY vaccine protects against A, C, W, and Y strains of the bacteria, while MenB protects against the B strains only.

MenACWY and MenB are usually the vaccines discussed when we talk about meningitis vaccination. They’re the most common shots but not the only ones that can help protect against meningitis.

H. influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

Hib is an essential vaccine in helping prevent bacterial meningitis in babies and toddlers. It protects against H. influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria.

Before the vaccine was introduced in the 1980s, this type of infection was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under 5. Around 3 to 6 percent of Hib cases involving meningitis were fatal in the pre-vaccine era, and 15-30 percent of survivors had permanent hearing loss or neurological damage.

After Hib vaccines were licensed, invasive Hib disease (and bacterial meningitis infections caused by it) went down by over 99 percent.

Pneumococcal vaccines

The Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) bacteria can cause many serious illnesses, including pneumonia. Meningitis can develop as a complication of pneumonia, aptly called pneumococcal meningitis.

Getting a pneumococcal vaccine can offer protection against both. Several of these vaccines are especially recommended for older adults, who are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Vaccines that may prevent viral meningitis

Currently, there’s no vaccine available to protect against viral forms of meningitis. But other routine vaccines are thought to offer some protection because they may prevent diseases that could lead to viral meningitis.

These include vaccines for:

Meningitis vaccines are a trusted and safe way of preventing disease spread and harm. But as with all types of vaccines, there’s a risk that side effects may occur.

According to the CDC, approximately half of those who each get the MenACWY and MenB shots experience mild side effects.

For the MenACWY vaccine, pain and redness at the injection site and mild fever are the most common side effects. These often resolve within a day or two.

The possible side effects for MenB shots are more wide-ranging and may last 3 to 5 days.

These include:

According to the CDC, there aren’t any known serious reactions to these core meningitis vaccines.

Some people may feel lightheaded after receiving a vaccine. This is believed to be a stress response to the vaccination process, not the shot itself.

If you have a history of feeling faint or passing out from shots, or getting bloodwork done, let your healthcare professional know ahead of time. They may take steps to decrease the risk of this effect, like having a loved one present during the appointment and having you lie down for several minutes after getting your shot.

Vaccine efficacy

The CDC reports around 1.2 million cases of bacterial meningitis occur worldwide every year. If untreated, fatality rates can be as high as 70 percent.

Vaccines have been essential in lowering the spread and severity of bacterial meningitis. Since the MenACWY shot recommendation was introduced for teens in 2005, rates of bacterial meningitis due to the C, W, and Y strains went down by 90 percent in that age group.

Was this helpful?

Meningitis shots are recommended for pre-teens and teens. But adults of all ages may also benefit from vaccination if they didn’t get these shots earlier in life.

Hib vaccines are given to newborns in several doses.

The first MenACWY shot is typically given at ages 11 to 12. A second vaccine may be administered around 16 years of age. You may also require proof of this type of vaccination before entering college.

The CDC recommends talking with your doctor about getting a MenB shot between ages 16 and 18, especially if you plan on going to college or joining the military. You’ll also need boosters of the same brand to complete your vaccination.

College and military service are considered high risk situations where many people will reside in close quarters (and infections spread easier).

Some adults with certain underlying medical conditions may also be at a higher risk of meningitis. For example, if you’ve had a spleen removal, are HIV positive, or currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Like other types of vaccines, meningitis shots may cause temporary pain and discomfort. But side effects tend to resolve on their own within a few days without any need for medical intervention.

These shots have a long safety track record and have dramatically decreased the global incidence of meningitis deaths, especially in children. Such crucial benefits could be seen as outweighing any temporary side effects that you may experience.

It’s important to discuss any concerns you have about meningitis vaccination side effects with your healthcare team. Talk with your doctor if you’re unsure whether you or your child is up to date on their meningitis shots.