vaccine is given by injection (shots) to provide immunization against
meningococcal disease and meningitis caused by the bacterium
Meningococcal disease, or
, isa leading cause of meningitis in children, and then disease can also
lead to infections of the blood. People who acquire the disease can become
very ill, especially the young children. Meningococcal disease is treated
, and the vaccine is not routinely recommended for most people in the
United States. Particularly, it is not for children under age two, except
under special circumstances.
Meningococcal meningitis is different from the meningitis in infants for
is routinely given. Before the 1990s,
type b (Hib) was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. However,
vaccines given to all children as part of their routine immunization have
reduced the frequency of the invasive diseases caused by
leaving neisseria meningitis as one of the leading causes of bacterial
The meningococcal vaccine contains inactivated bacteria and cannot cause
the disease. It is effective against four of the five subtypes of
meningococcal meningitis. It is a one-time injection (except for the very
young), and the effects last for four to five years. Adverse reactions are
uncommon with this vaccine. Localized redness at the injection site
lasting one or two days may occur. Less likely is an allergic reaction to
Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for children and young adults as
Children who are mildly ill at the time the shot is due can still get
meningococcal vaccine. Children with moderately severe illnesses should
wait until they recover. Children two years old and over receive one dose,
while children three months to two years old need two doses, three months
apart. Immunizations should be deferred during any acute illness. Pregnant
women should not receive the vaccine because it may affect the fetus.
—Refers to a disease or symptom that has a sudden onset and lasts
a relatively short period of time.
—Drugs that are designed to kill or inhibit the growth of the
bacteria that cause infections.
—A special protein made by the body's immune system as a
defense against foreign material (bacteria, viruses, etc.) that enters
the body. It is uniquely designed to attack and neutralize the specific
antigen that triggered the immune response.
—A substance (usually a protein) identified as foreign by the
body's immune system, triggering the release of antibodies as
part of the body's immune response.
—The effectiveness of a drug in treating a disease or condition.
—Ability to resist the effects of agents, such as bacteria and
viruses, that cause disease.
If the vaccine is given to children receiving immunosuppressive therapy,
or HIV/AIDs, the immune response may not take place. Moreover, the
meningitis vaccine should not be given to
individuals known to be sensitive to thimerosal (mercury derivative) or
other ingredients of the vaccine.
Meningitis passes from person to person, mainly by coughing and sneezing.
The risk of contracting the disease increases if the child spends time in
close contact with the local population at schools, crowded markets, or
public buildings. In addition, young adults living in close quarters on
college campuses are at risk for contracting the disease. Vaccines are
available at student health services on campuses.
Shmaefsky, Brian, et al.
Langhorne, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005.
Tunkel, Alan R.
London: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001.
Viral Meningitis: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and
Annotated Research Guide to Internet References.
San Diego, CA: Icon Group International, 2004.
Meningitis Foundation of America.
6610 North Shadeland Ave., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46220–4393.
Web site: http://www.musa.org/.
, January 6, 2004. Available online at
(accessed December 18, 2004).