There are five major types of meningococcal bacteria: A, B, C, Y and W-135. In 2005, a conjugate vaccine called MCV4 (Menactra) was approved for use in the U.S. This vaccine protects against four of the five strains of meningococcal bacteria. There is currently no vaccine that protects against type B bacteria. Type B is responsible for about one in three cases of meningococcal meningitis.
Meningococcal vaccine is created using parts of the bacteria cell wall. This means there are no live bacteria in the vaccine. This means that you cannot get meningococcal meningitis from the vaccination.
Meningococcal vaccine (Menactra) provides protection from meningitis for 8 to 10 years.
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
Those who should not receive vaccine include:
- 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.
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