Meningococcal vaccines

Meningococcal vaccines protect against meningococcal infection, a very rare but serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. Learn if you’re at higher risk of getting meningococcal disease and book an appointment for the meningococcal B (Men-B) vaccine.

About meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by a bacteria (Neisseria meningitidis). There are many different subtypes of this bacteria, but 5 of the subtypes (A, B, C, W and Y) are responsible for the majority of meningococcal disease cases. This bacteria can sometimes be carried in the nose without causing symptoms or illness, but in very rare circumstances the bacteria can invade the body and cause serious illness, like inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or an infection in the bloodstream.

Vaccines can protect against meningococcal disease infections and cases can be treated with antibiotics.

How meningococcal disease spreads

Meningococcal disease spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva. This can happen through:

  • close physical contact, including kissing
  • sharing utensils, drinking glasses, toothbrushes or lipstick
  • sharing cigarettes or vapes

Meningococcal disease doesn’t spread through the air or being near someone who is infected.

Meningococcal disease symptoms

Meningococcal disease symptoms usually develop 3 to 4 days after infection, but can develop 2 to 10 days after infection.

Symptoms can include:

  • sudden fever
  • intense headache
  • stiff neck
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light
  • altered mental state (like drowsiness or confusion)
  • purplish skin rash

If you have been exposed or become ill

If you’ve come into contact with someone who has meningococcal disease, call 811, follow Public Health’s advice and monitor for symptoms.

If you develop meningococcal disease symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. If you need emergency medical care, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

Meningococcal vaccination

As part of Nova Scotia’s Routine Immunization Schedule (PDF), the Meningococcal C vaccine is provided at no cost to children at 12 months of age and Meningococcal A, C, W and Y vaccine is provided at no cost in grade 7.

You can also get a Meningococcal B vaccine if you’re at increased risk at no cost.

If you’re interested in the meningococcal vaccine but are not at increased risk, you should talk to their healthcare provider and medical insurance provider about coverage as these vaccines are available for purchase.

Vaccination for high-risk groups

Meningococcal B vaccine for congregate living

The Government of Nova Scotia has added 2 groups to those who are eligible to receive 2 doses of Meningococcal B vaccine at no cost (due to at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease).

You can get a meningococcal B vaccine (at no cost) if you’re 25 or younger and are:

  • entering post-secondary education and will be living in a congregate setting operated by a post-secondary institution (like a residence or dormitory) for the first time
  • a military recruit who will be living in a congregate setting (like military barracks) for the first time

Book an appointment

If you’re eligible, you should get the meningococcal B vaccine before entering congregate living. You should get the second dose at least 4 weeks after the first dose.

You should bring proof of eligibility documentation (like your acceptance letter into residence or orders to present to military basic training) to your appointment.

Meningococcal B vaccine for other high-risk groups

You’re also eligible to receive 2 doses of Meningococcal B vaccine at no cost (due to increased risk of getting meningococcal disease) if you have one of the following immune-suppressing conditions:

  • congenital immunodeficiency
  • hematopoietic stem cell transplant
  • HIV
  • immunosuppressive therapy
  • solid organ transplant
  • splenic disorders including sickle cell disease or other hemoglobinopathies

Contact your primary healthcare provider or specialized healthcare team to book an appointment for the Meningococcal B vaccine.

Learn more: Publicly Funded Vaccine Eligibility for Individuals at High Risk of Acquiring Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PDF)