Childhood Diseases Vaccinations Meningococcal

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. Meningococcal disease can be either viral or bacterial, with the latter being the most serious and less commonly seen. Meningitis spreads most easily amongst people living in close quarters, so meningococcal disease is most often seen in teenagers, college students and boarding school students.

About the Meningitis Vaccine

Two types of meningococcal vaccines are available:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4): This vaccine is given most often and is also commonly known as Menactra.

  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4): This vaccine, called Menomune, can be used if the preferred vaccine is in short supply or unavailable.

Who Should Get the Meningitis Vaccine?

Certain groups of high-risk children ages 2 to 10 are recommended to receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Such groups include the following:

  • Anyone whose spleen has been removed or damaged

  • Children with the immune system disorder known as terminal complement deficiency

  • Those who travel frequently to or reside in countries where meningococcal meningitis is common.

Meningococcal meningitis vaccine is most frequently recommended for adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18. College students who have not previously been vaccinated for meningitis are strongly recommended to receive the vaccine before their freshman year, particularly if they are living in a dormitory. It is also suggested that military recruits be sure to get the vaccine due to their close living quarters.

Side Effects of the Meningitis Vaccine

Like any medication or vaccine, there is the possibility of adverse reaction to the meningitis vaccine; however, the risk of serious side effects is very small. Some mild problems experienced may include fever or pain or redness at the injection site. These reactions are more common after receiving MCV4 than MPSV4.

Serious allergic reactions after receiving meningococcal vaccines are very rare. Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a serious disorder of the nervous system, has been reported in conjunction with the MCV4 vaccine. However, these reports are so rare that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are hesitant to say that the vaccine is a factor in these cases.

Practicing good hygiene habits such as washing hands, cleaning household surfaces and coughing into a tissue or arm can help to lower the spread of diseases such as meningococcal meningitis. That being said, keeping up with regular meningococcal vaccinations is the most effective method of preventing meningococcal disease, and conditions that can lead to it.

 

Resources

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Meningitis questions and a nswers. Retrieved January 11, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/about/faq.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Meningococc al: Who needs to be vaccinated? Retrieved January 11, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/who-vaccinate.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Possible side effects from v accines. Retrieved January 11, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm#mening.

Hirsch, L. (2007). Infections: Meningitis. Retrieved January 11, 2010, from the Kids Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/lung/meningitis.html#.