Meningitis (Meningococcal) Vaccine | What Everyone Should Know

Meningitis is a fatal disease. Each year, around 1000 to 2600 get meningitis infection. 10% to 15% of those who get Meningitis will die even with antibiotics. Around 20% will get a permanent severe outcome like brain damage or hearing loss. This is why vaccination is vital for this disease; especially for young adults and teenagers, as around the third of infected people belong to this age category.

There are different types of vaccines for Meningitis:

MenACWY Vaccines: these vaccines are effective against four serotypes of meningococcal bacteria, those serotypes are A, C, W, and Y.

The CDC recommends this vaccine to many age groups:

  • Babies and children: The CDC recommends the vaccine for babies and children between 2 months and 10 years. The recommendation is mainly for children who have a high risk of getting the infection. Make sure to give your child the vaccine if 1. Your baby has an immune disorder or taking a drug that affects some part of the immune system called the complement system. 2. Your baby does not have a spleen or have a damaged one. 3. It has a disease that affects the immune system like HIV. 4. You and your baby are living or traveling to a country endemic with Meningitis.
  • Preteens or teens: Teens at the age of 11 or 12 should get the MenACWY Vaccine then a booster dose when they reach 16 years old. This is important to protect the child from getting Meningitis, as this age group is vulnerable to outbreaks, as, at this age, the teens stay more often in crowded places like schools or playgrounds. Staying in crowded places increases the chances of getting meningitis infection, among other infectious diseases.
  • Adults: The CDC recommends MenACWY Vaccine to adults if they have the previously mentioned risk factors as the babies and children category. Other risk factors for adults that are not present in the babies and children category. Those additional risk factors are working a job that makes you vulnerable to the meningitis infection. This includes working as a microbiologist that routinely exposes himself to the bacteria causing Meningitis. This is also true if you were recruited in a military camp, which is a very crowded place.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers: They may get MenACWY Vaccine, but only if they are at increased risk of getting the infection.

There is another vaccine for Meningitis called the MenB vaccine. This vaccine is effective against Serogroup B meningococcal bacteria.

CDC recommends the vaccine to many age groups like MenACWY Vaccine.

  • Babies and children: The CDC recommends the MenB vaccine for children above 10 years, especially if they have risk factors that increase the chances of getting an infection with Serogroup B meningococcal bacteria.
  • Preteens or teens: teens age 16 to 18 may get the MenB vaccine. The CDC only recommends the vaccine for teens with high-risk factors for this serotype, just like the babies and children category.
  • Adults: the same as above goes with the adult’s category.

There is another type of vaccine for Meningitis mostly made for Africa. Meningitis is endemic in Africa to the extent that there is the African meningitis belt, which represents the countries at which the disease is endemic. In December 2010, WHO introduced the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine. The vaccine targets people between the ages of one to twenty-nine years old. The campaign managed to vaccinate more than 280 million persons in November 2017. The vaccine was a massive success in Africa as it managed to reduce the incidence of Meningitis by 58%, and reduced the epidemic risk by 60%.  Now the vaccine is part of routine infant vaccination in the African meningitis belt’s countries. This vaccine has all the qualities to achieve this success; its low price and thermostability allowed its use in the African continent. The WHO aims to eliminate serotype A from Africa by using the meningococcal A conjugate vaccine. Although the vaccine managed to reduce the impact of serotype A, African countries still suffer from other serotypes, especially serotypes W, X, and C. Those serotypes still cause epidemics in Africa, with more than 30,000 cases every year mainly in African meningitis belt’s countries.

The vaccines are safe, and its benefits hugely outweigh the little insignificant problems that might occur to most people. However, if you or your child have a severe allergy against any of the meningitis vaccine, then you or your child should not take it.

If you or your child has a serious illness, it is advisable to wait until you become well again before taking the vaccine.

In all cases, always discuss your problem with your doctor, and he will guide you to the appropriate time to take the vaccines if you need the vaccine.

You must know that the vaccine is not a 100 percent shield; this means that you and your child can still get meningitis infection even after taking the vaccine. The available data suggests that MenACWY Vaccine efficacy decreases within 5 years; this is why taking the 16-year-old’s booster dose is critical to stay protected. The data available about the MenB vaccine suggests that its efficacy decreases even more quickly than the MenACWY Vaccine does within just one to two years.

This doesn’t mean that the vaccines are not effective; the current data shows that meningitis cases are at a historical low level, especially in countries that vaccinate more often than others. Rates of bacterial Meningitis caused by serotypes C, Y, and W decreased by over 90% after 2005. Two thousand and five was the year when CDC recommended MenACWY Vaccine for preteens and teens. We also have the numbers from the African countries before and after applying the vaccine for serotype A.

All of the data proves that vaccines work and should be encouraged by governments worldwide and by the doctors.

Other vaccines can protect you from bacterial and viral Meningitis caused by bacteria or viruses other than meningococcal Meningitis. For example, by giving your child the MMR vaccine, you protect him from the infection by measles, mumps, and rubella, which can sometimes cause viral Meningitis.

Vaccination is essential and useful not only for Meningitis but also for every other disease with an approvable vaccine.