What Do I Need To Know About Meningitis Vaccines
There are a number of safe, effective vaccines that prevent meningococcal meningitis. The vaccines may cause mild and infrequent side effects, such as redness and pain at the injection site lasting up to two days. The meningitis vaccines are 85 to 100 percent effective in preventing the four kinds of meningococcus germ . These four types cause about 70 percent of the disease in the United States. A newer vaccine protects against type B, which accounts for about one-third of cases in adolescents, and the CDC recently recommended that clinicians may choose to administer vaccine against serogroup B to persons between the ages of 16-23. This vaccine is also recommended for those 10 years of age and older with certain health conditions. For more information regarding Meningitis B vaccine recommendations, heck out the CDCs vaccine information statement.
While meningitis vaccines are effective against many types of meningococcal disease, they are not 100% effective against all types, and they do not prevent all cases of meningococcal disease.
Diagnosis Of Meningitis In Babies
Tests can confirm the diagnosis of meningitis and determine what organism is causing it. Tests include:
- Blood cultures. Blood removed from your babys vein is spread on special plates that bacteria, viruses, or a fungus grows well on. If something grows, thats probably the cause of the meningitis.
- Blood tests. Some of the blood removed will be analyzed in a lab for signs of infection.
- Lumbar puncture. This test isalso called a spinal tap. Some of the fluid that surrounds your babys brain and spinal cord is removed and tested. Its also put on special plates to see if anything grows.
- CT scan. Your doctor may get a CT scan of your babys head to see if theres a pocket of infection, called an abscess.
Where Can I Find These Vaccines
Your doctor is usually the best place to receive recommended vaccines for you or your child. These vaccines are part of the routine childhood immunization schedule. Therefore, vaccines for children and teens are regularly available at
- Pediatric and family practice offices
- Community health clinics
If your doctor does not have these vaccines for adults, ask for a referral.
Vaccines may also be available at
- Health departments
- Other community locations, such as schools and religious centers
You can also contact your state health department to learn more about where to get vaccines in your community.
When receiving any vaccine, ask the provider to record the vaccine in the state or local vaccine registry, if available. This helps providers at future visits know what vaccines you or your child have already received.
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Who Should Not Get Vaccinated Or Should Wait
- Anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of MCV4 or MPSV4 vaccine or diphtheria vaccine
- Anyone who has a severe allergy to any vaccine component
- Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should wait until they recover before receiving the vaccine
- For more information on additional warnings and precautions visit
How Can Meningococcal Disease Be Prevented
You can reduce risk for meningococcal disease by avoiding fluids from the nose or mouth, especially:
- Get vaccinated
- Avoid droplets from sneezing and coughing
- Avoid kissing
- Do not share eating utensils or drink from the same beverage container
- Do not smoke, but if you do smoke, do not share cigarettes or cannabis
- Wash hands well and often
There is some evidence that behaviors such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition and drinking alcohol may increase the risk of contracting this disease.
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How Does Meningococcal Disease Occur
Approximately 10% of the general population carry meningococcal bacteria in the nose and throat in a harmless state. This carrier state may last for days or months before spontaneously disappearing, and it seems to give people who harbor the bacteria in their upper respiratory tracts some protection from developing meningococcal disease.
During meningococcal disease outbreaks, close to 95% of people may carry the bacteria, yet less than 1% of people develop meningococcal disease. This low occurrence of disease following exposure suggests that a person’s own immune system, in addition to bacterial factors, plays a key role in allowing the disease to develop.
Meningococcal bacteria cannot usually live for more than a few minutes outside the body. As a result, they are not easily transmitted in water supplies, swimming pools, or by routine contact with an infected person in a classroom, dining room, bar, rest room, etc.
Why Your Child Needs The Meningitis Vaccine
The meningitis vaccine prevents meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection which causes meningitis in half of all cases and pneumonia in 15 percent. Still, many of those who contract the bacteria remain asymptomatic.
Symptoms are marked by a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion. All too often its deadly, with a 10-15 percent fatality rate even with appropriate antibiotic treatments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Survivors are often left with serious injuries 20 percent suffering hearing loss, neurological damage, or loss of a limb.
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Which Meningococcal Vaccines Are Available
In the U.S., three meningococcal vaccines are available:
- Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine , sold as Menomune
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine , sold as Menactra, MenHibrix, and Menveo.
- Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, sold asTrumenba and Bexsero.
MPSV4 and MCV4 can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, which make up about 70% of the cases in the U.S.
The MenB vaccines prevent the Meningococcal B strain.
MCV4 is preferred for people age 55 and younger. The recommendation for teens is one dose at age 11 and one dose at age 16. The doctor or nurse injects one dose into the muscle. If MCV4 is not available, you can use MPSV4. The doctor or nurse injects one dose beneath the skin.
MPSV4 is the only meningococcal vaccine approved for use in people over 55.
The MenB vaccines are recommended for ages 10-24, by the CDC for high risk patients, but can also be used in older adults. Trumenba is administered in three doses while Bexsero requires two doses.
What Are The Risks From Meningococcal Vaccine
Most people have mild side effects from the vaccine, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. A vaccine, like any medicine, may cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. This risk is extremely small. Getting the meningococcal vaccine is much safer than getting the disease.
You can learn more on the Vaccine Information Statements for meningococcal ACWY and meningococcal B.
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Healthy Infants And Children
One dose of Men-C-C vaccine is recommended in unimmunized children less than 5 years of age. One dose of Men-C-C vaccine may be considered for children 5 to 11 years of age if they have not previously been immunized as infants or toddlers. Immunization with 4CMenB vaccine or MenB-fHBP may be considered on an individual basis, depending on individual preferences, regional serogroup B epidemiology and strain susceptibility.
Who Is At Risk For Meningitis
- While anyone can get meningococcal disease, infants, children, teens and young adults are at increased risk and are the groups most commonly diagnosed with meningitis. Learn more about the meningitis vaccine for infants, children, teens and young adults.
- Large groups of people in community settings are at increased risk. This is why recommendations and requirements for meningococcal vaccine focus on teens and young adults who are more likely to be exposed in college, school or camp settings. Learn more about the meningitis vaccine for college students.
- People with certain medical conditions and weakened immune systems are often at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Learn more about the meningitis vaccine for those with certain medical conditions.
- Travelers to certain parts of the world are at increased risk, especially those traveling to the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly during the dry season. Learn more about the meningitis vaccine for travelers.
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Effectiveness Of The Menacwy Vaccine
The type of meningococcal vaccine that most young adults get is generally called the MenACWY vaccine, which protects against four strains of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
Since the CDC recommended vaccination for adolescents in 2005, cases of meningococcal disease fell by 90%. Similar declines werent seen in groups that didnt have this vaccine recommendation.
Other studies also noted a large drop in meningococcal disease since the vaccine was introduced. One 2020 paper in JAMA Pediatrics analyzed the national rates of meningococcal disease between 2000 and 2005 and compared it to 2011 to 2017 .
The annual incidence rates of three strains of meningococcal disease were already dropping in the pre-vaccine period by about 14.6% among adolescents 16 to 22 years old. But that drop accelerated after vaccine introduction. Between 2011 and 2017, the incidence of meningitis due to these strains dropped by 35.6% per year.
This suggests that MenACWY vaccination is related to the drop in meningococcal disease among adolescents, though vaccination alone cant explain this decline. But other studies have replicated these results in other populations.
A study compared meningococcal disease cases and deaths in the Republic of Korea Armed Forces between 2008 and 2013 and 2013 to 2016 . Data showed the MenACWY vaccine is 88% effective in protecting against meningococcal disease.
Simultaneous Administration With Other Vaccines
Men-C-C and 4CMenB vaccine may be administered concomitantly with routine childhood vaccines, and Men-C-ACYW vaccine may be administered concomitantly with adolescent and adult age appropriate vaccines. MenB-fHBP can be given concomitantly with quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine meningococcal serogroup A, C, Y, W conjugate vaccine and tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine adsorbed. The concomitant administration of MenB-fHBP has not been studied with other vaccines.
Men-C-ACYW-CRM can be administered with routine paediatric vaccines however, further studies are needed with regard to concomitant administration with pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate vaccine. Co-administration of Men-C-ACYW-CRM and combined tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine may result in a lower immune response to the pertussis antigens than when Tdap vaccine is given alone however, the clinical significance of this is unknown. Tdap vaccine given one month after Men-C-ACYW-CRM induces the strongest immunologic response to pertussis antigens.
If vaccines are to be administered concomitantly with another vaccine, a separate injection site and a different syringe must be used for each injection.
Refer to Timing of Vaccine Administration in Part 1 for additional general information.
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Who Should Get Meningococcal Vaccines
CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, CDC also recommends other children and adults get meningococcal vaccines. Below is more information about which meningococcal vaccines, including booster shots, CDC recommends for people by age.
Talk to your or your childs doctor about what is best for your specific situation.
Why Children Are Vaccinated At Such A Young Age
Children are vaccinated at a very young age because this is when they are most vulnerable to diseases. At this point their immune system is not developed enough to be able to fight serious infections.
The vaccination schedule is based on infants’ ability to create an immune response. Vaccines are given to protect them against 14 serious diseases at a time when they are most at risk.
Medical experts do not advise delaying or spreading out the recommended vaccines. This does not provide any added benefit to your child.
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What Is Meningitis B
Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by different bacteria and viruses, although bacterial infections are usually more serious.
One of the bacteria which causes meningitis is called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as the meningococcus. This bacteria commonly lives harmlessly in peoples throats, but can cause devastating disease if it gets into the blood or spinal fluid. There are different types of this bacteria and the most common is known as type B what is often referred to as meningitis B, or MenB.
MenB most commonly affects children under the age of one, causing symptoms including fever, poor feeding, vomiting and lethargy. It can also cause septicaemia , which can lead to the telltale purple rash.
In children over the age of four the disease is rare, but theres a second peak of the disease in adolescents . Babies are at high risk because they do not have immune protection from antibodies these are passed from mothers to babies which protect them for the first few months of life, but after that they are susceptible. They gradually build up immunity as they are exposed to similar bacteria in the environment. Teenagers are more likely to carry the bacteria in their throats than other age groups, which is why there is this second, smaller, peak of disease in that age group.
Meningococcal Vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide
For health professionals
Latest partial content update :
: The chapter has been updated to align with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Statement : The Use of Bivalent Factor H Binding Protein Meningococcal Serogroup B Vaccine for the Prevention of Meningococcal B Disease.
MenB-fHBP vaccine may be considered as an option for use in individuals 10 years of age and older in situations when a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine should be offered:
MenB-fHBP vaccine may be considered as an option for individuals 1025 years of age who are not at higher risk of meningococcal disease than the general population, but who wish to reduce their risk of invasive serogroup B meningococcal disease.
Last complete chapter revision: May 2015
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Your Child Can Get Menacwy And Menb Vaccines At The Same Time
Your childs doctor can give both types of meningococcal vaccines during the same visit, but preferably in different arms. If you choose for your child to get a MenB vaccine, the preferred timing is between 16 and 18 years old. So its possible your child will get this vaccine and the MenACWY booster dose at the same visit.
Problems That Could Happen After Getting Any Injected Vaccine
- People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell the provider if you or your child feel dizzy, have vision changes, or have ringing in the ears.
- As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.
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How Are The Bacteria Spread
These bacteria are passed from person-to-person through saliva . You must be in close contact with an infected persons saliva in order for the bacteria to spread. Close contact includes activities such as kissing, sharing water bottles, sharing eating/drinking utensils or sharing cigarettes with someone who is infected or being within 3-6 feet of an infected person who is coughing or sneezing.
Schedule For Children Who Are More Likely To Get Meningitis
Younger kids will need a vaccine if they’re at a greater risk of getting meningitis because they:
- Have complement component deficiency, a rare immune system disease
- Have spleen damage or had their spleen removed
- Live in an area that had a meningitis outbreak
- Take drugs that affect their immune system
- Travel to a country where meningitis is common
For these cases, doctors strongly recommend MenACWY for kids ages 2 months to 10 years. The number of doses and boosters your child needs depends on their health, age, and how long they stay at risk for the disease. For example, a child with spleen damage will be at risk longer than someone who travels for a week to a country where meningitis is common. Check with your doctor to find out what your child needs.
Doctors also recommend that kids ages 10 and older with these risks get the standard doses of MenB.
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What To Do If You Move
If you move to another province or territory, your child’s vaccination schedule may change. Once you have moved, contact your new health care provider or local public health office. They will tell you which vaccines may be needed in that province or territory.
Remember to take your child’s vaccination record to the appointment with you.
Effectiveness Of The Menb Vaccine
Another type of meningococcal vaccine is the MenB vaccine, which protects against a fifth strain of Neisseria meningitidis. In the U.S., parents can opt to give their children a MenB vaccine once theyre in their teens.
The CDC’s analysis of the efficacy of the MenB vaccines in the real world comes from studies done in other countries. In Canada, a study followed a mass vaccination campaign in a region with a meningitis B outbreak and found that a MenB vaccine was 79% effective in the four years after vaccination.
In the UK, MenB vaccines have become part of the childhood immunization schedule. By 2018 as many as 92% of eligible infants in the UK completed a MenB vaccination by their first birthday, according to a 2020 study in The New England Journal of Medicine.
That study estimated that the vaccine was about 53% effective. This policy has also resulted in a large drop in meningitis B cases. The study noted a 75% drop in cases among vaccine-eligible age groups, compared to the expected numbers.
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