There are a number of vaccines that can prevent many cases of viral and bacterial meningitis. The vaccines available include:
- the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination
- the meningitis C vaccination
- the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccination, which provides protection against Hib bacteria, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and the polio virus
- the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
Children should receive these vaccines as part of their childhood vaccination programme. Speak to your GP if you are not sure whether your vaccinations are up-to-date.
Vaccine for meningitis B
In January 2013 a new meningitis B vaccine called Bexsero was licensed by the European Commission. This means the vaccine should become available for use in the UK?
Meningitis vaccines for travellers
Groups A, Y and W135 are more common elsewhere in the world. If you are travelling abroad, you can be vaccinated against groups A, C, W and Y of the meningococcal bacteria.
High-risk areas for meningococcal meningitis include:
parts of Africa
Vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis is recommended if you are travelling to a high-risk area and you will be:
staying for longer than one month backpacking
living with locals in rural areas attending the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages (religious journeys to Mecca, the centre of the Islamic world) in Saudi Arabia
doing seasonal work in the Hajj area of Saudi Arabia
Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, and seasonal workers in the Hajj area, require proof of vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis.
The conjugate ACYW135 meningococcal vaccination will protect you against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis. This should be given two to three weeks before you travel. For adults and children over five years of age, a single dose provides protection for about five years. For children who were under five years of age when they were first vaccinated, the vaccine gives protection for two to three years. For infants aged between two months and two years, the initial dose of the vaccine must be followed by a second dose three months later. The Meningitis Vaccination is not suitable for babies younger than two months old. For up-to-date information about which areas are considered to be high risk, see:
About 10% of people experience soreness and redness at the injection site after having the ACWY vaccine to protect against groups A, C, W135 and Y meningitis. This usually lasts around 24-48 hours. Mild fever can also occur (this is usually more common in young children than in adults). Severe reactions are very rare.