The Meningitis C vaccine



Meningococcal disease is a very rapid bacterial infection that can be fatal (in 1 out of every 10 people infected) within a few hours if untreated. It can cause meningitis (swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord), septicaemia (blood infection), and permanent physical disabilities and brain damage. It most commonly affects teenagers and young adults. A leading cause of meningococcal disease are the Neisseria meningitides group C (commonly known as meningitis C) bacteria.

In Ireland the Menjugate vaccine (produced by Novartis) is provided as part of the childhood vaccination programme, for babies at 6 and 13 months old. Children will also be offered a booster vaccine in the first year of secondary school. Menjugate vaccine against meningitis C is a conjugate vaccine. Meningitis C and meningitis B bacteria caused 99% of all meningococcal diseases in Ireland until 2000 when a vaccine against meningitis C was made available. Since then, the number of infections with meningitis C have reduced dramatically, and the meningitis B infections have also decreased.

If you suspect meningitis, seek medical attention immediately.

Most common side effects are mild and temporary. They are a result of the child's immune system responding to the vaccination, and making antibodies that will protect the child in the future. Most side effects will ease after a day or two and any discomfort can be treated with over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (ask your pharmacist for medicine appropriate for your child's age).

Before getting the vaccination, speak to your doctor if your child has been sick or 'off form' over the past few days. Illness can reduce the effectiveness of a vaccine. The nurse or doctor administering the vaccine will check your child's temperature first, to see if they may have any other infections or illnesses.

Common side effects of the Menjugate vaccine that are usually no cause for concern: soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, vomiting, irritability, drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, high temperature, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.

Other rarer side effects of the Menjugate vaccine include dizziness, fainting, numbness, pins and needles, headache. These side effects are rare and have been reported in very few children.

Remember that the benefits of receiving vaccines that protect your child from serious diseases hugely outweigh any mild side effects from vaccination.

If you are concerned about your child, contact your doctor or local hospital for advice.

Allergies to substances within vaccines can occur, though they are very rare (they happen in fewer than 1 in 10,000 people receiving the vaccine). An allergic reaction to a vaccine would happen quickly - probably before you left the gp's surgery. Signs of an allergic reaction may include itchy skin, rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue.

Before getting the vaccination, speak to your doctor if your child has experienced any allergic reactions previously.

If you are concerned about your child, contact your doctor or local hospital for advice.

Vaccines are tested exhaustively before they are provided to the public (it normally takes 10-15 years to develop a new vaccine). Menjugate vaccine (produced by Novartis) was studied in hundreds of babies and children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years old, before it was licenced in Ireland in 2005. It is also used routinely in the childhood vaccination schedule in the UK.

Information on meningococcal C infection and vaccination from the HSE (Ireland):
http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/babychildimm/vaccprevdisease/menc/

Information on meningococcal vaccines from the CDC (USA):
https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/vaccine-info.html

Menjugate MenC vaccine Patient Information Leaflet:
http://www.medicines.ie/medicine/16454/PIL/MENJUGATE+Meningococcal+group+C+conjugate+vaccine/

Menjugate MenC vaccine Summary of Product Characteristics:
http://www.medicines.ie/medicine/16455/SPC/MENJUGATE+Meningococcal+group+C+conjugate+vaccine/