Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that can be serious, or even fatal, if not treated quickly. It is spread through contact with droplets from the coughs and sneezes of people with the condition.

There are different groups (types or strains) of meningococcal bacteria that cause different meningococcal infections. Groups B and C are the most common in the UK, and vaccination against group C meningitis is now part of the childhood vaccination programme. Groups A, Y, and W135 are more common elsewhere in the world.

High risk areas: parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia.

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, or
  • doing seasonal work in the Hajj area of Saudi Arabia.

Visitors arriving in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, or to undertake seasonal work in the Hajj area, require proof of vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis.

The vaccine

The quadrivalent vaccine will protect you against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis. This should be given 2-3 weeks before you travel.

For adults and children who are over five years of age, a single dose of the quadrivalent vaccine provides protection for about five years. For children who are under five years of age when they were first vaccinated, the vaccine gives protection for 2-3 years.

For infants who are between two months and two years of age, the initial dose of the vaccine must be followed by a second dose three months later.

The meningitis vaccine is not suitable for infants who are under two months of age.