MenB Vaccine: 5 Topics to Discuss With Your Teen’s Healthcare Provider

Learn about the recommendations for people at normal risk and what you should discuss with your teen’s healthcare provider.

Vaccine syringes on yellow background. Meningitis vaccines are one vaccine recommended for teenagers.

In the United States, vaccination recommendations are issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommendations are categorized as either A or B (with a third category of “no recommendation”).

The ACIP has two different recommendations for vaccination against meningitis B (MenB)—a category A recommendation for people at increased risk and a category B recommendation for people at normal risk.

The category A recommendation means that the MenB vaccine is recommended for all people who are at increased risk of becoming infected. This includes people who have been exposed to MenB because of an outbreak, as well as people who have pre-existing health conditions that put them at a greater risk.

The category B recommendation means that people who are at normal risk can opt to receive the vaccine if they choose to, a decision they can make with the guidance of their healthcare provider. This approach is called “shared clinical decision making.” For people at normal risk, the vaccination is given between the ages of 16 and 23, and optimally between ages 16 and 18.

If you are a teen or the parent of a teen at normal risk of MenB and are considering getting the MenB vaccine, here are some topics you may want to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Discuss the risk of getting meningitis B

MenB is very rare—there are only about 200 cases in the United States each year. This means the risk of becoming infected is very low.

However, meningococcal disease is very serious—an infection typically has a rapid onset and progression, and even with treatment, 10 to 15 percent of patients die and roughly 20 percent experience permanent complications, such as nerve damage, hearing loss, and loss of limbs. Meningococcal disease causes inflammation in the protective layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Infections can also spread to the blood, which can damage the blood vessels and cause internal bleeding (septicemia).

Because of the serious nature of meningococcal disease, people in the normal risk category are interested in getting the MenB vaccine, even if the disease is rare. During the past decade, outbreaks of MenB have occurred at several U.S. colleges, and some colleges now require or strongly recommend getting the vaccine.

Discuss which MenB vaccine to get

There are two MenB vaccines available. Two important factors to consider when choosing a vaccine are: 1) dosing schedule; and 2) cost. You can also ask your healthcare provider if they recommend a particular vaccine. Both vaccines require a minimum of two doses, and the same vaccine must be used for all doses.

Discuss the possibility of side effects

Mild side effects from the MenB vaccine are common—more than half of people who receive the vaccine experience side effects. Mild side effects include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, or reactions at the site of the injection, such as redness, swelling, or soreness. The MenB vaccine does not contain live bacteria and cannot cause a meningococcal disease. Serious side effects are uncommon.

Discuss allergies, pregnancy, and illnesses

Your healthcare provider needs to know: 1) if the person receiving a vaccine is pregnant or breastfeeding; 2) if they have severe allergies that could result in a life-threatening allergic reaction; 3) if they have had an allergic reaction to a previous MenB vaccine or other vaccines; and 4) if they are currently ill. In these cases, the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine should be discussed with your healthcare provider, and in some cases, vaccination may be delayed.

Discuss what other vaccinations you or your teen needs

Remember that MenB is just one vaccine, and there are numerous other vaccines that may be recommended for your teen. If your child has missed vaccinations in the past, your healthcare provider can follow a catchup schedule for getting them up to date. It can also be helpful to keep a record of the vaccinations your teen has received for your own health records.

Article sources open article sources

Faruque Ahmed. "U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Handbook for Developing Evidence-based Recommendations." Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Vaccination."
Gary S. Marshall and Litjen Tan. "Understanding the Category B Recommendation for Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine." Pediatrics, 2017. Vol. 139, No. 5.
American Academy of Family Physicians. "Meningococcal Disease Vaccine."
Immunization Action Coalition. "Meningococcal B Vaccine: IAC Answers Your Questions."
National Learning Consortium Fact Sheet. "Shared Decision Making."
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease: Technical and Clinical Information."
National Meningitis Association. "Five Facts about Meningococcal Disease and Prevention."
National Organization for Rare Disorders. "Meningococcal Meningitis."
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Vaccination for Preteens and Teens: Information for Parents."
Merck Manual Consumer Version. "Meningococcal Infections."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal B VIS."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Table 1. Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger, United States, 2020."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Table 2. Catch-up immunization schedule for persons aged 4 months–18 years who start late or who are more than 1 month behind, United States, 2020."

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