What is the meningococcal vaccine?

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides, also known as meningococcus. It involves 13 types of bacterium; however, only five are responsible for the disease (type A, B, C, Y, and W135). In Europe, particularly Europe, the most common types present include type B and C.

Some individuals carry the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease; however, sometimes the bacteria can invade the body causing certain illnesses (known as meningococcal disease). Transmission occurs by droplets or nasal pharyngeal issued by infected individuals through exchange of respiratory and throat secretions or lengthy contact Meningococcal disease is responsible for various infections and can strike at any age, most commonly in children under the ages of 5.

Meningococcal infections are often asymptomatic or cause inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. In severe cases, however, the bacterium can lead meningitis, or sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication whose outcome can also be fatal. About 1 in 5 patients who recover tend to experience long term disabilities, such as deafness, loss of limbs, brain damage and problems involving the nervous system. Receiving a meningococcal vaccine can help prevent young individuals from during years when they are at the highest risk of contracting meningococcal disease.

What is the meningococcal vaccine composed of?

There are two main types of meningococcal vaccine available:

  • Tetravalent conjugate vaccine against meningococcal type A, C, Y, W135 (MCV4): a vaccine that can be received through two varieties: the first can be administered from 12 months of age and the second can be administered from two years of age. This type of vaccine is often recommended when traveling to countries at high risk for the presence of meningitis. It is administered subcutaneously in the upper arm.
  • Conjugate vaccine against meningococcal type C (MenC): a common vaccine that can be administered from three months of age. It ensures prolonged and effective protection. After 9 years of age, it is administered in anterolateral thigh region.

When is it recommended to receive the meningococcal vaccine?

The meningococcal vaccine is not mandatory in Italy but is highly recommended. Typically, it involves the administration of MenC in children between 13 and 15 months in conjunction with the MPR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). The MCV4 is provided in cases where an individual plans on traveling to countries at high risk for the presence of meningococcal A, C, Y and W135.

The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended in individuals who are at risk for certain diseases or at high in particular conditions.

What are the side effects of the meningococcal vaccine?

The meningococcal vaccine is well tolerated. Following administration, only a slight pain may be felt at the injection site. Mild symptoms that may occur include the following:

  • Redness at the injection site
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Swelling
  • Fever

Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions and although rare, there are such cases that may present themselves.  These problems may occur within minutes or a few hours after the vaccination, depending on the individual’s immune system.