Meningococcal C Conjugate Vaccine

What is meningococcal disease and what are the complications of this disease?

Invasive meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis (N. meningitidis). There are many different groups or types of this bacteria that can cause disease. Each type is identified by a letter. The bacteria can cause infection of joints (septic arthritis), blood (bacteremia or septicemia), the lining of the heart (pericarditis), the lung (pneumonia), or the brain (meningitis).

The most common illness caused by this bacteria is meningitis and, since 1989, there have been outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in several Canadian provinces. Meningococcus Group C was responsible for an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in PEI during 1990 to 1992. There were deaths among young adults during that outbreak.

Approximately 10 per cent of people who get a meningococcal disease will die and 10-20 per cent of survivors have long term effects including hearing loss, digit or limb amputations, and neurological disabilities.

What are the contents of the Meningococcal C Conjugate vaccine?

This is an inactivated vaccine containing portions of the N. meningitidis bacteria of serogroup C conjugated to a carrier protein, which stimulates the body to make antibodies to the Meningococcal C strain. This results in protection for the vaccinated person.

As well, the vaccine contains traces of non-medicinal ingredients that keep the vaccine stable, sterile, and help the body be more effective in producing antibodies. There is no preservative and no mercury in the vaccine.

All vaccine contents are licensed for use in Canada by the Biologics and Genetics Therapies Directorate within Health Canada. A complete listing of contents is included in the product insert, which is available from the public health nurse.

What are the possible reactions to the vaccine?

The most serious but rare side effect is a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) which can be life threatening and which usually occurs within 15-20 minutes of receiving the vaccine.

Procedures are in place for the nurse to quickly respond to anaphylaxis by administering adrenaline.

The most common side effects after receiving the vaccine are tenderness, redness and swelling at the site where the vaccine was given. Headache, change in appetite, irritability, mild fever and diarrhea have also been reported. These symptoms generally last one to two days.

It is not necessary to give acetaminophen after immunization. If discomfort or fever occur acetaminophen can relieve the symptoms.

  1. Please remain in the waiting room for 15 minutes after immunization.
  2. See a doctor or seek medical attention if any serious side effect occurs.
  3. Report any serious reaction to the public health nurse.

What are the situations in which Meningococcal C conjugate should not be given?

The vaccine should not be given to anyone who has had an anaphylactic (severe or life threatening) reaction to any component of the vaccine.

The vaccine should be delayed until later if a person has an acute illness with fever. It can be administered when a person has a cold, or a chest or ear infection (if there is no fever).

What are the risks if the vaccine is not received?

The chance of getting meningococcal disease varies greatly from time to time and an outbreak can occur without warning. Since the introduction of routine immunization of children against this organism, the incidence of Meningococcal group C disease has fallen significantly. An increased number of cases occur when there is an outbreak.

Approximately 10 per cent of people who get a meningococcal disease will die and up to one-third of survivors suffer from long term effects including hearing loss, digit or limb amputations, brain damage, and neurological disabilities.

The Meningococcal C vaccine effectiveness in infants is 97 per cent within one year of immunization. 

Published date: 
November 3, 2015
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