Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the meninges, which are the thick membranes covering the brain and the spinal cord. There are vaccines available, which are used for the prevention of meningitis.
Did You Know?
In the United States of America, around 1,000 to 1,500 people are infected with bacterial meningitis every year.
Bacterial meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease. If not treated early, it can lead to brain swelling, which may further lead to permanent disability, coma and even death. Other than bacteria, other causative agents include fungi and viruses. Exposure to environmental toxins such as heavy metals, drug allergies and certain inflammatory medical conditions can also lead to meningitis. Viral meningitis, also called aseptic meningitis, is relatively mild and can be treated under the guidance of a physician. Bacterial and fungal infections need long-term hospitalization. Even under proper medical care, it can prove to be fatal. Taking a meningitis vaccine is one of the most effective way to prevent an infection.
Adverse Effects of Meningitis Vaccine
Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4), and Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) are the two types of bacterial meningitis vaccines available in the U.S. for the prevention of this serious infection. The most frequently observed side effects of these vaccines include pain, redness and swelling at the site of injection. This redness and swelling may last for 1 to 3 days. While severe allergic reaction is quite rare, medical help must be sought immediately if symptoms such as breathing problems, hives, wheezing, dizziness, swelling of the throat, rapid heartbeat, etc., are experienced after the administration of the vaccine.
Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (MPSV4)
MPSV4 provides protection against 4 common types of meningococcal bacteria. The vaccine exposes a small dose of bacteria or a protein from the bacteria, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. This vaccine won’t be effective against an active infection in the body. It is preferred for adults above the age of 55 years. Meningococcal vaccine should not be taken with pertussis (whooping cough) or typhoid vaccine.
Possible Side-effects of MPSV4 Vaccine
Some of the side effects of MPSV4 vaccine are as follows:
- Severe weakness or slight pain in arms and legs. This may be observed 2 to 4 weeks after receiving the vaccine.
- High fever
- Low-grade fever with chills
- Redness, pain, swelling, or a lump near the area, where the vaccine was injected.
Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4)
MCV4 vaccine follows the same principal as the MCV4 vaccine in providing immunity to the body. This vaccine is preferred for those in the age group of 9 months to 55 years. It is highly recommended for children and adults who travel to or are living in countries with high incidence of this disease. Persons in the age bracket of 19-21 years are required to take meningitis shot, if they are joining a college or university setting, especially those who plan to live in dormitories.
Possible Side-effects of MCV4 Vaccine
A few side effects are similar to those of Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine. They include:
- Severe weakness or slight pain in arms and legs, high fever
- Low fever, chills
- The spot where the vaccine was injected may show redness, pain, swelling, or a lump.
- Fatigue and weakness
- Brief fainting spells in adolescents
- Mild skin rash
The side effects are more common after MCV4 vaccine. If allergic reactions to the vaccine like difficulty in breathing, wheezing, hives, pale complexion, dizziness, swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat and rapid or irregular heartbeat are observed, inform the doctor immediately.
People Who Should Take Meningitis Vaccine
Certain people have been identified by experts, who should take these vaccines. These people who are at a higher risk of meningitis include:
- People over the age of 60 years.
- Children under the age group of 5 years.
- Alcoholism also increases the chances of falling prey to meningitis.
- Dairy farmers and ranchers, working with domestic animals, can come in contact with Listeria, a type of bacteria and can be infected with meningitis.
- People undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer are at a higher risk.
- People with sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, IV (intravenous) drug users can also be prone to meningitis.
- AIDS, immunosuppressant drugs can make the person susceptible to an infection.
- People suffering from autoimmune system disorder that makes them vulnerable to infections.
- Spleen plays an important role in maintaining the immunity of the body. If the spleen has been surgically removed, it may increase the chances of meningitis infection.
- Travelers to certain countries like sub-Saharan Africa or Mecca for annual Hajj.
- Any person who has been exposed to an outbreak of meningitis.
People Who Should NOT Take Meningitis Vaccine
Just at some people should take these vaccine, there are certain people who should avoid it. This is because, there are high chances that they may develop side effects. These people include:
- Anyone who has ever had a really severe allergic reaction to any drug or a previous meningococcal vaccine dose should avoid it completely.
- People who are allergic to certain components of a vaccine should speak to their health care provider and find out if meningitis vaccine is safe for them.
- Any person who is moderately or severely sick during the time when their shot is scheduled. They probably should wait until they recover before taking the vaccine.
- People or children with Guillain-Barré Syndrome need to exert caution when taking the drug. Speak to the health care provider before taking the shot for MCV4.
- Pregnant women should speak to their doctor if the vaccine is safe for them. This is because the MCV4 vaccine is relatively new and its effect on pregnant women is yet not clear.
Mild side effects seen after vaccination for meningitis include redness and/or pain in the region where the shot was given. These mild symptoms last for about 1 to 2 days and are more common with MCV4 than MPSV4. Serious side effects include a full-fledged allergic reaction within a few minutes of taking the shot. However, this reaction is very, very rare. Like most vaccines, there are a few side effects associated with these vaccines, but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low. It is advisable to consult a doctor for medical advice to clear all doubts about the vaccination and its possible side-effects.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.