The New and Improved Meningitis Vaccine

A new meningococcal vaccine, MCV 4 (brand name, Menactra), was just licensed for use in children. The Center for Disease Control Immunization Advisory Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend this vaccination for all children over age eleven.Lake Shore Pediatrics is now stocking and administering this vaccination.

What is Meningococcal Disease?
Meningococcal disease is a rare, but potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause meningitis – severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord or meningococcemia – a serious blood infection. Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis.

How is the disease spread?
The disease is spread through the exchange of fluids found in the respiratory system and throat, usually through close, personal contact with someone who is infected. It is thought that certain social behaviors involving close personal contact such as sharing drinking glasses or water bottles, kissing, smoking (active or passive), or being in crowded situations may put young people at greater risk for getting meningococcal disease.

Why is it so dangerous?
Meningococcal disease often begins with symptoms that look like other common viral illnesses such as the flu. However, unlike more common infections, meningococcal disease can get worse very rapidly, and it can kill an otherwise healthy person in 48 hours or less. In fact, up to 1 in 5 people who get meningococcal disease will die. Of those who survive, 1 in 5 will suffer from permanent disabilities such as limb amputation, severe scarring, brain damage and hearing loss.

Who is at risk?
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that meningococcal disease rates begin to rise during adolescence and peak between the ages of 15 to 24 years. Moreover, death rates from meningococcal disease are up to 5 times higher among adolescents and young adults compared with younger populations.

How effective is vaccination in preventing disease?
Vaccination with MCV4 has been found to be at approximately 90% effective in preventing meningococcal disease. This vaccine offers protection against 4 of the 5 most common strains of bacteria that cause the disease.

Why has the age recommendation changed?
The previously used vaccine, MPSV4, has been available since the 1970s. It was most commonly given prior to college entry and in younger patients with immune deficiency. The newer vaccine, MCV4, offers superior protection from person to person spread, protection from a greater number of strains, and a longer period of protection.

What side effects may my child experience?
Up to half of people who get meningococcal vaccines report mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. If these problems occur, they usually last just 1 to 2 days. A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a fever. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare.

How can I learn more?
The following web sites have further information available: