Young people and vaccine against meningococcal disease

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that young people aged 16-19 should consider vaccination against meningococcal disease (infectious meningitis).

There are few cases of meningococcal disease in Norway, but young people aged 16–19 years have a somewhat higher risk of infection compared to the rest of the population. A combination of close contact with others over several days, partying, high alcohol intake, sharing bottles/glasses and cigarettes, and little sleep can increase the risk of infection, and of a severe disease course.

In Norway, this often applies around graduation (Russ) celebrations/trips, but also at festivals, sports gatherings, and youth camps. The recommendation also applies to younger and older youths who also participate.

Incidence among youths

Healthy youths carry meningococci in their throats more often than others. Few young people become ill, but they can infect others. The disease often progresses rapidly, and around 10 % of those who develop the disease die.

In the last ten years, between one and five cases of meningococcal disease were reported annually in this age group.

Vaccine for youths

There are two different types of vaccines. 

  • The combination vaccine against meningococcal serogroups A, C, W and Y (Menveo, Nimenrix or MenQuadfi) protects against all these four groups of meningococcal bacteria.
  • A vaccine against meningococcal serogroup B (Bexsero or Trumenba) is also available. 

In recent years, serogroup Y has accounted for most cases of illness among youths, although there have been some cases of serogroup W and C. Except for one case in 2023, there have been no cases caused by serogroup B among young people aged 16-19 in Norway since 2014, although serogroup B circulates in other age groups in the population.

Based on the current situation, the ACWY conjugate vaccine gives the widest coverage in the 16-19 age group. Therefore, this vaccine that is primarily recommended for youths. Both types of vaccine are needed to protect against all the serogroups that have caused disease in Norway in recent years (A, B, C, W and Y). Changes in the situation can be difficult to predict, but the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is closely monitoring developments and may change the recommendation.

The incidence of the serogroups may differ in other countries. When travelling to countries outside the Nordic region that involve an increased risk of infection with the meningococcal bacteria, e.g. graduation trips and other trips that include parties and close contact with other young people over several days, consider the need for meningococcal B vaccination. 

Some countries and educational institutions may require, or strongly recommend, vaccination against meningococcal disease; either the ACWY conjugate vaccine or meningococcal B vaccine, or both the vaccines. It is important to check any requirements and recommendations about vaccination for Norwegian students and school pupils who will study abroad.

Availability of the products can vary.

Vaccinate in good time

Vaccination should be carried out in good time before the graduation celebrations, or similar activities, begin. Vaccination against meningococcus A, C, W and Y consists of one dose. Vaccination against meningococcus B consists of two doses at least 1 or 6 months apart, depending on the vaccine used. After vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks before the vaccine provides protection.

The protection lasts for approximately 5 years (approximately 10 years for Nimenrix).

Some municipalities and counties offer free vaccination of youth groups. Otherwise, the vaccine must be paid for by the individual, as with other vaccines that are not included in the Childhood Immunisation Programme. The vaccine can be given by a GP, at a vaccination clinic, or via the school health service in municipalities that offer this.

Other preventive measures 

Follow this advice to reduce the risk of transmission:

  • Avoid droplet infection, do not drink from the same bottle/can/glass as others and do not share cigarettes.
  • Remember that sore mucous membranes are more susceptible to infections.
  • Take care of your voice and throat, and avoid excessive screaming. Avoid snus and smoking (both active and passive).
  • Catch up on your sleep, your body needs rest.
  • Avoid too much alcohol. When you are intoxicated, your judgment will be impaired, and symptoms of meningococcal disease could be mistaken for being drunk.
  • Seek medical attention if you suspect a friend may be ill. Take care of them if they are drowsy (reduced consciousness) or have a fever.

Check your vaccination status

If you have children under the age of 16, you can also see which vaccines they have received.

Vaccination guidance from The Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The vaccination guide for healthcare professionals contains information and guidelines on vaccines, vaccination, the vaccination programs in Norway, and the vaccination of specific groups.

Content provided by Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Young people and vaccine against meningococcal disease. [Internet]. Oslo: The Norwegian Directorate of Health; updated Friday, September 1, 2023 [retrieved Friday, March 1, 2024]. Available from: https://www.helsenorge.no/en/vaksiner-og-vaksinasjon/ungdom-og-vaksine-mot-smittsom-hjernehinnebetennelse-en/

Last updated Friday, September 1, 2023