Bacterial Meningitis Vaccine
There are five major types of meningococcal bacteria: A, B, C, Y and W-135.
In 1978, a vaccine was licensed that protected against two of these types. A polyvalent vaccine called MPSV4, protecting against A, C, Y and W-135, became available in 1981. In 2005, a conjugate vaccine called MCV4 (Menactra) was approved in the U.S.
None of the vaccines for this disease protect against type B bacteria. This form is responsible for about one in three cases of meningococcal meningitis. None of these vaccines protect against other forms of meningitis, such as that caused by pneumococcus.
Meningococcal vaccine uses parts of the bacteria cell wall. This means there are no live bacteria in the vaccine that might cause meningitis.
The meningococcus vaccine is approved for all children at their 11-12 year old checkup. Other people who may need this vaccine include:
- First year college students living in dormitories who have not yet been vaccinated
- High school students who have not been vaccinated
- Military recruits
- People exposed to meningitis
- People who have had their spleen removed
- People with a weak immune system
- Travelers to meningitis-endemic areas
Certain people should not receive this vaccine. This includes people with:
- Allergies to any of the components of the vaccine
- Severe current illness
A single dose is given at 11-12 years of age, or upon entry to high school, college, and the military or other high-risk exposures. A repeat dose may be necessary for people with weak immune systems.
In general, this vaccine has a low risk of side effects. Mild redness or pain at the injection site is most common. Fevers and serious allergic reactions are rare.
Pregnant women at high risk for meningitis may take this vaccine.
There may be a very small risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving the Menactra vaccine. In late 2005, the CDC reported 5 people had developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome out of more than 2.5 million doses of Menactra. It is currently unknown whether the vaccine may have caused this disorder. Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome should discuss this fact with his or her doctor before receiving this vaccine.
Continue to Bacterial Meningitis Outlook
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- Sigurdardottir B, Bjornsson OM, Jonsdottir KE, et al: Acute bacterial meningitis in adults. A 20-year overview. Arch Intern Med 1997 Feb 24; 157(4): 425-30.