Meningococcal disease is a formidable adversary, striking swiftly and potentially leading to severe illness or death. However, modern medicine offers a robust defense in the form of meningococcal vaccine.
This disease implies any infection that is caused by Neisseria meningitidis. In addition, the infection can spread to the lining of the spinal cord and the brain. It can also infect the bloodstream.
In this informative article, we will explore the ins and outs of these vaccines, their importance, the different types available, and who should consider getting vaccinated.
Understanding Meningococcal Disease
Meningococcal disease is a term used to describe illnesses caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. This bacterium can lead to a variety of infections, with meningitis and septicemia (bloodstream infection) being the most common. These infections can progress rapidly, and their consequences can be devastating.
Meningitis, for instance, is characterized by inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
The Importance of Meningococcal Vaccine
The primary weapon against meningococcal disease is vaccination. These vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce protective antibodies against specific strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing the transmission and outbreak of this contagious disease.
Types of Meningococcal Vaccine
There are several types of meningococcal vaccine, each targeting different strains of Neisseria meningitidis. These vaccines are typically grouped into four categories:
1. Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccines (MCV4): These vaccines cover the A, C, W, and Y strains of the bacterium. Administration is for adolescents, young adults, and certain high-risk groups. The MCV4 vaccine is commonly administered at ages 11-12, with a booster dose around age 16.
2. Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine: These vaccines protect against serogroup B strains of Neisseria meningitidis, which are prevalent in some regions. Individuals at more risk of contracting the infection and during outbreaks, receive it. The vaccination schedule may vary depending on the specific vaccine used.
3. Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (MPSV4): This vaccine protects against the A, C, W, and Y strains of the bacterium. In specific situations adults at higher risk require this vaccine. This vaccine is recommended for those who are older than 55 years.
4. Meningococcal Bexsero and Trumenba: These two vaccines are serogroup B vaccines for specific high-risk groups, such as college students or individuals with certain medical conditions.
Who Should Get The Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines on who should receive the meningococcal vaccine. Recommendations typically include:
– Adolescents: MCV4 vaccines are recommended for all adolescents, with a primary dose around age 11-12 and a booster dose around age 16.
– College Students: College students living in dormitories or crowded settings are at higher risk, making vaccination advisable.
– Certain High-Risk Groups: Those with specific medical conditions or traveling to regions with meningococcal outbreaks may require vaccination.
– Military Recruits: Military recruits, particularly new entrants, are often vaccinated to prevent outbreaks.
In addition, teens and pre-teens should also receive the MenACWY vaccine when they are 16 years old. Individuals aged between 16 to 18 years can receive the MenB vaccine.
Teens under the following circumstances must receive the vaccine:
- If they have a rare immune disorder such as complement component deficiency,
- If they have sickle cell disease or a damaged spleen,
- Are taking complement inhibitor,
- Belong to a populace that is at an increased risk, due to serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak.
This vaccine aims specifically at people between the 2 months to 55 years.
The meningococcal vaccination schedule may vary based on age, risk factors, and the specific vaccine used. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate schedule.
Who Should Avoid Getting The Vaccine?
If you or an affected person is experiencing any of the following conditions, then getting this vaccine may be difficult:
- If you or your child has ever had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, then you must avoid getting another dose of that vaccine.
- If you are allergic to any part of the vaccine, then you must avoid getting the vaccine. Your doctor or child’s pediatrician will be able to inform you about the vaccine’s components.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to consult as per your doctor’s advice. Pregnant women are at more risk of infection by serogroups A, C, W, and Y. Thus, it is best to consult your doctor before getting the vaccine.
- If you or your child have a mild illness, or cold, you may need prior consultation with your physician. However, if the illness is moderate or severe, then it is best to wait until you are normal.
Meningitis Vaccine Side Effects
The side effects associated with the vaccines are:
- Muscle pain
These side effects may persist for 1-2 days. Seek professional help if the problem continues for more than the mentioned time.
Meningococcal disease can progress swiftly, leading to severe consequences. Meningococcal vaccines are a crucial line of defense, providing protection against different strains of Neisseria meningitidis. By following vaccination recommendations, individuals can safeguard themselves and their communities from this potent foe. If you or a loved one fall into one of the recommended categories, consult a healthcare provider to discuss the most appropriate meningococcal vaccine and schedule.
- Serogroup: Refers to a group of bacteria that are closely related to each other. The six serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis include A, B, C, W, X and Y. These are responsible for the majority of the meningococcal disease cases around the world.
- Neisseria meningitidis: the strain of bacteria causing meningococcal disease.
- Vaccination: The process of immunizing a population against an infection-causing microorganism. It is a safe, effective and simple way of protecting a large population from harmful diseases. Sometimes the person may be protected before they are in contact with the harm, or soon after they suspect exposure to it.
- Complement component deficiency: An immunodeficiency that is a result of immune system malfunction. This is a disorder that may weaken the body, making the affected individual vulnerable to viruses and bacteria.