Help Protect Your Child Against Meningococcal Disease

By Pfizer
Doctor talking to teen patient
Doctor discussing medical findings with teenager, Cologne, NRW, Germany

From school dances, sporting events, and college applications, adolescence and young adulthood can be one of the most exciting (and busy) periods in your child’s life. But did you know that some common teen behaviors, like sharing beverages and cosmetics, attending close-quarter gatherings, and more can put them at increased risk for certain vaccine-preventable diseases, like meningococcal disease?1

Meningococcal disease, commonly referred to as meningitis, is an uncommon but serious illness that, in some cases, can turn fatal in a matter of hours.2 Unfortunately, in the United States, teens and young adults are among those with the highest rates of meningococcal disease.3

While in this vibrant and social time in your child’s life, it can be challenging to juggle all of life’s moving pieces, it’s critical to understand the potential disease risk factors and tools available to help protect them as they age.

To help your child continue to grow up healthy and be ready for whatever comes next, the National PTA, with support from Pfizer, assembled a summary of valuable information about meningococcal disease and next steps parents can take to help protect their child from this serious illness.

What is Meningococcal Disease?

Meningococcal disease is any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause severe and deadly bacterial infections, such as meningococcal meningitis – a bacterial infection that attacks the brain and spinal cord, and septicemia – a bloodstream infection that leads to dangerous bleeding into the skin and organs.2

Five groups known as A, B, C, W, and Y are considered the most common causes of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD).1 Some of the most common symptoms of meningococcal disease can include nausea, fever, stiff neck, and a rash that looks like purple spots, among others.1,2

The impacts of meningococcal disease can last a lifetime, with some outcomes including amputation, permanent hearing loss, brain damage, and vision loss.4

Adolescents and Young Adults at Increased Risk

Meningococcal disease is contracted through respiratory droplets, leaving teens and young adults at an increased risk by simply engaging in common behaviors like dorm-living, sharing beverages, and sharing makeup.1

It’s important to remember that the effects of meningococcal disease can be severe and deadly, so it’s

essential that your child be seen by a healthcare provider right away if they’re experiencing symptoms.2

Importance of Vaccinations

Current meningococcal vaccines in the United States offer protection against all five of the most common serogroups causing disease, but your child may need more than one vaccination to help protect against the most common types.1 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens.

Learning More

To learn more about the types of meningococcal disease and the vaccinations available to help protect

your child, speak to your child’s trusted healthcare provider, and read more on the CDC website.

This piece was developed with support from Pfizer.

1 Burman C, Serra L, Nuttens C, Presa J, Balmer P, York L. Meningococcal disease in adolescents and young adults: a review of the rationale for prevention through vaccination. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2019;15(2):459-469. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2018.1528831. Epub 2018 Oct 29. PMID: 30273506; PMCID: PMC6422514.

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 7). Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 7). Age as a risk factor for meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease: Fact sheet. Available at: MeningococcalDis-FS.pdf. Retrieved December 21, 2022.