Thirty-four adults were vaccinated with 1/50 of the usual dose of meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (1 microg of A, C, Y, and W135 polysaccharides, given intramuscularly). This dose was selected as a probe to assess B cell memory. The probe elicited meningococcal C bactericidal antibody responses in all 18 adults who had been vaccinated 4 years earlier with an investigational meningococcal A and C oligosaccharide-protein conjugate vaccine and in the majority of the 11 subjects vaccinated for the first time. In contrast, the responses of the 5 adults given a full dose of licensed polysaccharide vaccine 4 years earlier were <1/10 of those of the other 2 groups. Thus, adults previously given a full dose of meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine show evidence of immunologic refractoriness to group C polysaccharide, whereas refractoriness is not observed after conjugate vaccination. These findings have implications for the use of meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine when the risk of disease is low.