MenACWY Vaccine (Meningococcal group A, C, W-135 and Y conjugate vaccine)

Key vaccine facts

This vaccine gives protection against four types of meningococcal disease caused by groups A, C, W and Y (MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY). Meningococcal disease is a major cause of meningitis and septicaemia.

The MenACWY vaccine is given to teenagers in the UK as part of the routine NHS schedule. There is also a catch-up programme for those aged up to 21 who have not yet had the vaccine. It was introduced in summer 2015 because of the recent increase in cases of MenW disease in the UK (see 'More information about the vaccine' below). It is expected that vaccinating this age group will offer herd protection against MenW for the rest of the population, including infants.

The MenACWY vaccine is offered to these groups:

  • all students in school years 9 or 10 (around 14 years of age)
  • all those born between 1st September 1996 and 31st August 1999 who have missed out on MenACWY vaccination
  • all those aged 10 to 25 years who have never received a MenC vaccine
  • students aged up to 25 years attending university for the first time

The vaccine boosts protection against MenC disease and also protects against MenA, MenW and MenY meningococcal disease. One dose of the vaccine offers very good protection. It has been used for many years as a travel vaccine and has an excellent safety profile.

The vaccine does not contain any live bacteria, and it cannot cause meningococcal disease.

The vaccine can safely be given at the same time as the Teenage Booster vaccine.

The MenACWY vaccine is also recommended for people with some long-term health conditions who are at greater risk of complications from meningococcal disease. This includes people with:

  • asplenia or splenic dysfunction (a spleen that is missing or does not work properly)
  • sickle cell anaemia
  • coeliac disease
  • complement disorders (the complement system is an important part of the immune system)

Two brands of MenACWY vaccine are used in the UK: Menveo (see the Patient Information Leaflet ) and Nimenrix (see the Patient Information Leaflet ).


The MenACWY vaccines used in the UK are called Menveo and Nimenrix. Apart from the active ingredients (the antigens), they contain very small amounts of these ingredients:

  • Sucrose (sugar), used as a stabiliser
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Other harmless sodium and potassium salts used as acidity regulators during the manufacture of the vaccine
  • Trometamol, another acidity regulator used during the manufacture of the vaccine (Nimenrix only)

MenACWY is a conjugate vaccine. Sugars are taken from the capsule around each of the four different types of the bacteria, and joined to a non-toxic protein from either tetanus or diphtheria. The protein helps to stimulate the immune system in a broader way to respond well to the vaccine. This gives a better immune response in individuals of all ages.

Other brands of MenACWY vaccines used in other countries may contain different ingredients. If you are not in the UK, ask for the Patient Information leaflet for the vaccine you are offered.

Side effects

Very common side effects (affecting more than 1 in 10 people)

  • Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired, irritable or sleepy
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Common side effects (affecting between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people)

  • Stomach upsets (such as feeling sick, diarrhoea or vomiting)
  • A hard lump or a large amount of redness and swelling at the injection site
  • Rash
  • Muscle or joint pain

Uncommon side effects (affecting between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 people)

  • In babies: crying or sleeplessness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of feeling, warmth or itching at the injection site

Rare (affecting between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10000 people)

  • Swelling of the injected limb
  • Febrile convulsions (fits)

Many of the common symptoms can be relieved by giving paracetamol or ibuprofen.

It is quite common for teenagers to have panic attacks before vaccination, or to faint during vaccination. These should not be confused with reactions to the vaccination itself.

As with any vaccine, medicine or food, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is different from less severe allergic reactions because it causes life-threatening breathing and/or circulation problems. It is always serious but can be treated with adrenaline. In the UK between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 130 reports of anaphylaxis following ALL immunisations, but all of these people survived. Around 117 million doses of vaccines were given in the UK during this period, making the overall rate around 1 in 900,000. Depending on the cause of the reaction, and following expert guidance, the person may be able to have vaccinations in the future.

Reactions listed under ‘possible side effects’ or ‘adverse events’ on vaccine product information sheets may not all be directly linked to the vaccine. See Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions for more information on why this is the case.

See more information on the monitoring of vaccine safety.

More information about the vaccine

There have been a number of changes to the schedule for meningococcal vaccines in the last few years. A teenage MenC booster was introduced in 2013, and a booster for student freshers in 2014. Both of these were replaced by the MenACWY vaccine in 2015.

These changes have been made because of the recent increase in cases of MenW disease in the UK. Overall, the number of cases of meningococcal disease has been falling in the UK since the MenC vaccine was introduced in 1999, but disease caused by MenW is on the increase. Cases in England have been increasing year-on-year, from 30 cases in 2011-12 to 225 cases in 2016-17 (cases are counted from July one year to June the next year). See more information from Public Health England and our blog post from March 2015.

Following introduction of the MenC vaccine in 1999, the number of cases of meningococcal disease caused by group C bacteria fell by over 90% in vaccinated groups:

The MenACWY vaccine is also recommended for travellers to parts of the world which are high risk for meningococcal disease (including parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia). All visitors to the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia need proof that they have been vaccinated against type A, C, W and Y meningococcal disease. Travel vaccines are not provided free of charge.

Does the vaccine work?

Since the Men ACWY programme started, there has not been a case of MenA, MenC, MenW or MenY disease in a vaccinated teenager in the UK.

Page last updated: 
Thursday, February 8, 2018


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