Meningococcal Quadrivalent Vaccines
Immunization has saved more lives in Canada in the last 50 years than any other health measure.
What are meningococcal quadrivalent vaccines?
Meningococcal quadrivalent vaccines protect against 4 types of meningococcal bacteria: types A, C, Y and W-135. There are 2 types of quadrivalent vaccines:
- a polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune® and
- conjugate vaccines (Menactra® and Menveo).
The conjugate vaccines are more commonly used because they provide longer lasting protection against disease. These vaccines are approved by Health Canada.
The meningococcal quadrivalent vaccines are not part of the publicly funded routine schedule of childhood immunizations in B.C. However, a vaccine against meningococcal C disease is. For information on the routine meningococcal C vaccine for children, see HealthLinkBC File #23a Meningococcal C Conjugate (Men-C) Vaccine.
Who should get the vaccine?
Some children and adults have health concerns or medical conditions that put them at high risk of getting sick with meningococcal bacteria. The vaccine is provided free to these people, including those who have:
- no spleen, or a spleen that is not working properly;
- immune system disorders including complement, properdin or factor D deficiencies, or primary antibody deficiency;
- an islet cell or solid organ transplant, or those who are waiting for one;
- had a stem cell transplant;
- been in close contact with a person with meningococcal A, Y or W-135 disease, or who are determined by public health to be at risk of infection with these during an outbreak in B.C.
The vaccine is also recommended, but not provided free, for the following people:
- laboratory workers routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria;
- military personnel; and
- those living or travelling in a high risk area for meningococcal disease.
For information on high risk travel areas contact a travel clinic.
The vaccine is usually given as 1 dose. Sometimes, a second dose may be necessary. Your health care provider can provide you with this information.
People who are not eligible for the free vaccine but want to be protected against meningococcal A, C, Y and W-135 strains of the disease can purchase the quadrivalent vaccine at most travel clinics and pharmacies.
It is important to keep a record of all immunizations received.
What are the benefits of the vaccine?
The vaccine is the best way to protect against meningococcal infection, a serious and sometimes fatal disease.
When you get immunized, you help protect others as well.
What are possible reactions after the vaccine?
Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get meningococcal disease.
Common reactions to the vaccine may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Headache, muscle soreness, chills, fever, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea or diarrhea may also occur after getting the vaccine. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days.
For more information on Reye Syndrome, see HealthLinkBC File #84 Reye Syndrome.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. If this happens after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. This reaction can be treated and occurs in less than 1 in a million people who get the vaccine.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Who should not get the vaccine?
Speak with your health care provider if you or your child have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of any meningococcal vaccine, or any component of the vaccine, or to latex.
There is no need to delay getting immunized because of a cold or other mild illness. However, if you have concerns speak with your health care provider.
What is meningococcal infection?
Meningococcal infection is caused by a germ or bacteria. Meningococcal infection due to types A, C, Y and W-135 is very rare in B.C. Since 2009 there have been less than 10 cases per year. Although rare, it can cause serious and life-threatening infections including meningitis, an infection of the lining that covers the brain, and septicemia, an infection of the blood. For every 100 people who get sick, up to 10 to 15 will die, even if they receive treatment. Permanent complications of infection include brain damage, deafness, and loss of limbs.
Meningococcal infection is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through saliva or spit. This can occur through activities such as kissing or sharing of food, drinks, cigarettes, lipsticks, water bottles, mouth guards used for sports, or mouthpieces of musical instruments.
Mature Minor Consent
It is recommended that parents or guardians and their children discuss consent for immunization. Efforts are first made to seek parental/guardian or representative consent prior to immunization. However, children under the age of 19, who are able to understand the benefits and possible reactions for each vaccine and the risk of not getting immunized, can legally consent to or refuse immunizations.