Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-C)Menjugate, NeisVac-C
meningococcal conjugate quadrivalent (Men-C-ACYW)Menactra, Menveo, Nimenrix
meningococcal polysaccharide (Men-P-ACYW-135) Menomune
multi-component vaccine (4CMenB)Bexsero

How It Works

Meningococcal vaccine is given to protect people from becoming infected with bacteria that cause meningitis. The vaccines contain small amounts of killed bacteria and are given as a shot (injection). This helps your body make antibodies that can recognize and destroy the bacteria if you are exposed to it later.

Why It Is Used

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Meningococcal disease also causes infections in the blood. These infections can be serious and can even cause death or long-term health problems.

Scientists divide meningococcal bacteria into "groups." Within each type of vaccine are specific formulas that protect against the different groups of meningococcal bacteria. Just because you've been immunized against one group of meningococcal bacteria does not mean you are totally protected against getting meningococcal disease from a different group.

Two types of conjugate meningococcal vaccines (Men-C-C and Men-C-ACYW-135) and a multi-component meningococcal vaccine (4CMenB) are used for routine immunization. (A meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine, Men-P-ACYW-135, is available in Canada, but it is rarely recommended for routine use.) The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has made recommendations on who should get each kind of vaccine.footnote 1

  • Children ages 2 months to 11 years
      • Babies may get the vaccine starting when they are 2 months old, but the age a baby starts getting the vaccine depends on provincial guidelines. The meningitis vaccine is given in several doses spaced over several weeks.
      • A dose given at ages 12 to 23 months is recommended for all children.
      • Vaccination may be recommended for children up to 11 years of age if they did not get the vaccine as a baby.
  • Adolescents and young adults ages 12 to 24 years
    • A booster dose is recommended between the ages of 12 to 24 years, even if they received a meningococcal vaccine as an infant. In most provinces this booster is offered to children in grade 9.
  • People at high risk for the disease
    • People who have certain medical conditions should get the meningococcal vaccine. This includes people with no spleen, sickle cell disease, people with certain immune system problems, and people with HIV infection. These people may need to get the shot every 3 to 5 years.
    • People who are more likely to be exposed to the disease should get the meningococcal vaccine. This includes people travelling to certain parts of the world, some laboratory workers, and some military personnel. These people may need to get the shot every 3 to 5 years if they continue to have a high risk of exposure.
    • The vaccine may also be recommended for people close to where an outbreak of meningococcal disease has occurred.

Immunization schedules and requirements for vaccines vary by province and territory. You can keep track of when your child received vaccines using the National Childhood Immunization Record (What is a PDF document?). Contact your local public health unit for more information.

How Well It Works

The Men-C-C meningococcal vaccine works well. It protects about 97% of infants for one year after they get the vaccine and drops to 70% protection after one year. Booster shots of this vaccine are given to keep the protection level high. The Men-C-ACYW meningococcal vaccine works well and protects about 85% of people from meningococcal disease. The level of protection goes down over a period of years. Not enough information is available to say how long the 4CMenB vaccine protection lasts.

Side Effects

Meningococcal vaccines are safe medicines. Side effects are usually mild and may include:

  • Redness, warmth, or swelling where the shot was given.
  • Fussiness, grouchiness.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Little interest in eating.
  • Slight fever.
  • Headache.

Even though serious allergic reactions are rare with these medicines, call your doctor or local health unit right away if you or your child has trouble breathing, a high fever, or anything unusual after having the shot.

Tell your doctor or public health nurse if your child has had a severe reaction to any vaccine or has severe allergies.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The menigococcal vaccine can be given at the same time as other routine childhood vaccinations.

The conjugate meningococcal vaccines (Men-C-C and Men-ACYW) may be used during pregnancy when the benefits of getting the vaccine outweighs the risk.

The conjugate (Men-C-C and Men-ACYW) and multi-component (4CMenB) vaccines may be given to women who are breastfeeding.

No evidence has shown that Canadian university students who live in dormitories or residence halls are at higher risk of getting meningococcal disease.footnote 2

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada (2015). Meningococcal vaccine. Canadian Immunization Guide. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cig-gci/p04-meni-eng.php. Accessed January 8, 2016.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2006). Menningococcal vaccine. In Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed., pp. 237–250. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 6/6/2017

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Date: 6/6/2017

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC