Meningococcal vaccine is a treatment for the illness caused by Neisseria meningitidis. Meningitis, a meningococcal disease is an infection where the fluid membranes surrounding the brain are inflamed.
Meningococcal disease or meningitis can be prevented through proper steps such as vaccination and prevention. The disease affects more than 2.5 million people around the world, every year. The diagnosis of the illness is difficult which cannot be eradicated within a few hours.
The two types of meningococcal vaccines available are:
- Meningococcal conjugate or MenACW,
- Serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines, or meningitis B vaccine
The MenACWY vaccine is available for children between 11 to 12 years, where they receive a booster dose upon turning 16 years. On the other hand, the MenB vaccine is administered to children between 16 to 23 years. The CDC mandates that children and adults who may be at an elevated risk of the disease must receive it.
What Is Meningitis?
The infection occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream. They achieve this through breaking the protective barrier of the body, for example, through the throat or the most. The bacteria can enter the cerebrospinal fluid which is present in all the important places such as the spinal cord, and the brain.
This overwhelms the body, which triggers sepsis. This may cause organ failure, tissue damage and death. The prevention of these risks are best possible through the reduction of potential threats such as spread of the infection.
Why Are Vaccines Needed?
The bacterial infection is so severe that pharmacological treatment options such as medicines, do not seem effective. Vaccination provides a safe option for the protection against the microorganism. Moreover, immunizing vulnerable people is the prioritized aim as it helps prevent the spread within communities.
Vaccination against the bacteria has so far prevented millions of lives around the world, with important achievements in curbing meningitis and septicemia.
Vaccines ensure that even those who can unknowingly spread the vaccine do not spread the disease. The individuals who are carriers of the pathogen, can carry the bacteria without being harmed.
Is The Vaccine Effective?
The effectiveness of the vaccine is known through the protection it confers against the bacteria. In addition, the meningitis vaccine is age-group specific which ensures that the appropriate protection is provided to all individuals.
When something is developed specifically instead of taking a generic approach, the results are enhanced. The two leading causes of the disease were found to be bacterial and viral infections which are prevented with this vaccine.
What Does It Prevent?
The vaccine is known to prevent meningococcal diseases such as meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. The Hib vaccine is a breakthrough that was able to provide proper protection against bacterial meningitis in babies.
The meningitis vaccine helps prevent invasive meningococcal disease, which is caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. This vaccine protects against various serogroups (strains) of the bacteria, including A, B, C, W, and Y, depending on the specific type of meningococcal vaccine used.
Meningococcal disease can lead to serious infections, such as meningitis and septicemia (bloodstream infection), which can be life-threatening.
The vaccine is particularly important for adolescents, college students, and others at higher risk of exposure to the bacteria due to close living conditions or travel to regions with higher incidences of the disease. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable meningitis vaccine based on individual risk factors and age.
The Bacterial Meningitis Threat
Bacterial meningitis poses a significant threat due to its potential for rapid progression and severe consequences. It can lead to brain damage, limb amputations, hearing loss, and death within a matter of hours. Vaccines are designed to combat the bacterial strains that cause this form of meningitis. These vaccines act as shields against harmful invaders.
Meningitis Vaccine Schedule
To ensure the effectiveness of meningitis vaccines, it is vital to adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule. Adolescents and college students are particularly encouraged to receive these vaccinations due to their increased vulnerability. Booster shots may be necessary over time to maintain immunity and stay protected.
Benefits Of Meningitis Vaccine
- The benefits of meningitis vaccination cannot be overstated.
- These vaccines prevent severe illness, disabilities, and, in some cases, death.
Moreover, they play a significant role in reducing the overall prevalence of the disease within communities, contributing to public health.
Vaccination for Adolescents
Adolescents, due to factors like living in close quarters in dormitories, are at an elevated risk of meningitis. Many colleges and universities require incoming students to be vaccinated to mitigate this risk.
Meningitis Risk Factors
– Certain risk factors can increase an individual’s susceptibility to meningitis. These factors include travel to regions prone to meningitis outbreaks, such as the “meningitis belt” in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, specific medical conditions may heighten the risk.
Following is a list of risk factors:
- Being on the younger or older spectrum of age- the extremes of age can be a risk factor due to the weak immune system
- Being in an immunosuppressed state such as being transplant recipient, having congenital immunodeficiency, AIDS
- Alcohol use disorder
- A history of traveling to high-risk regions, increases the risk of exposure to vectors
- Bacterial endocarditis
- Sickle cell anemia
- History of or current use of IV drug
Meningitis Vaccine Side Effect
Addressing concerns about vaccine safety is essential. Meningitis vaccines, like any medical intervention, may have side effects. It’s important to emphasize that the risk of severe side effects is exceedingly rare compared to the benefits. The overwhelming majority of vaccine recipients experience no adverse effects or only mild, temporary ones.
Following are the side effects observed for meningitis vaccine:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Redness, soreness, swelling at the site of administration.
- Chills with fever
Traveling and Meningitis
Meningitis isn’t limited by borders. Travelers, especially those visiting regions known for meningitis outbreaks, should consider vaccination.
Exploring the importance of vaccination for travelers:
- The vaccine protects the travelers and prevents the chances of getting a serious infection. The process of traveling can lead to the traveler coming in contact with serious disease-causing pathogens. Especially during international travel, the chances of contracting meningitis becomes higher.
- The protection from the vaccine can decrease within five years, thus people who are at an increased risk of the infection must get done with their re-vaccination. You must do this in consultation with your doctor.
The Future of Meningitis Vaccines
Ongoing research and advancements in meningitis vaccines represent hope for a future with even more effective and accessible preventive measures.
The future of the vaccine lies in finding a ‘formula’ that can be more effective than the existing ones. As per a 2019 study, there are new vaccines that are undergoing development. The pentavalent variant of the vaccine should be available in the next couple of years.
Meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, can be a devastating condition. It is crucial to comprehend the nature of this disease. Meningitis is primarily categorized into viral and bacterial forms.
While viral meningitis is typically less severe, bacterial meningitis is life-threatening and can lead to permanent disabilities or death. Vaccination primarily focuses on bacterial meningitis because of its severity.