Meningitis vaccination 

There are a number of vaccines that can prevent many types of viral and bacterial meningitis.

The vaccines available include:

Children should receive these vaccines as part of the NHS vaccination schedule. Speak to your GP if you're not sure whether your vaccinations are up-to-date.

Meningitis B vaccine

In 2013, a new meningitis B vaccine called Bexsero was approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In March 2014, the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), recommended routine use of the meningitis B vaccine in the UK.

The JCVI has said that the vaccine should be offered to babies at 2, 4 and 12 months of age. However, a number of issues, such as cost and supply, still need to be addressed, so it's likely to be a number of months before the vaccine is introduced.

Read more about the new meningitis B vaccine.

Meningitis vaccines for travellers

Meningococcal bacteria groups A, W and Y are more common elsewhere in the world (see below). If you're travelling abroad, you can be vaccinated against groups A, C, W and Y.

High-risk areas

High-risk areas for meningococcal meningitis include parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Vaccination against groups A, C, W and Y meningitis is recommended if you're travelling to a high-risk area and you'll 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, W and Y meningitis.

For up-to-date information about which areas are considered to be high risk see:

Read more about travel vaccinations.

The vaccine

The conjugate ACWY meningococcal vaccine will protect you against groups A, C, W and Y meningitis. It should be given two or 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 when they were first vaccinated, the vaccine provides protection for 2-3 years.

For infants less than one year old, an initial dose is followed by a second dose one month later. Children over one year of age only require a single dose.

Side effects

About 1 in 10 people experience soreness and redness at the injection site after having the ACWY meningococcal vaccine. This usually lasts around 24 to 48 hours.

Mild fever can also occur, although this is usually more common in young children than in adults. Severe reactions are very rare.

Meningitis research

The Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis Now (formed when the Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK merged) are charities that fund research into developing meningitis vaccines.

Read more about the research being carried out by the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Spencer Dayman Meningitis Research Programme.

Page last reviewed: 10/06/2014

Next review due: 10/06/2016