Sorting out Meningococcal Vaccines
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain), septicemia (blood infection), and other infections (joint, ear, etc.). This disease has a very rapid onset and people can become deathly ill in less than 24 hours. Death occurs in 10-40% of cases and other consequences are deafness, brain damage, and amputations. The vaccines that protect against meningococcal disease do not provide long term immunity. The disease has such a short incubation period that circulating antibodies are required for protection. We cannot rely on immune memory as we can for diseases such as hepatitis A & B that have a long incubation period. Long incubation periods give the immune system time to produce protective antibodies. Meningococcal vaccines should be boosted every 3-5 years if risk continues.
There are 5 sero-groups of the meningococcal bacteria that cause illness in North America: groups A, B, C, Y, and W-135.
Conjugate C Vaccine
(Menjugate, Meningitec, Neis Vac-C) Free – Children in BC
In Canada, during the 2000’s we had epidemics of group C disease. As a result every child in B.C. is given free meningococcal conjugate group C vaccine at 2 mos, 12 mos, and grade 6.
Conjugate A, C, Y, W-135 Vaccine
(Menactra, Menveo, Nimenrix) $130.00/dose
As group C disease decreases due to vaccination, other groups such as group Y have become more prominent. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all Canadian adolescents receive a dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine around the age of 12 years. Ideally, this would be a vaccine containing A, C, Y, W-135. This vaccine is administered to every grade 9 student starting September 2016. This vaccine should be re-boosted every 3 years for all college and university students up to 24 years.
Saudi Arabia and certain African countries have a high incidence of groups A and W-135 so the conjugate A,C,Y, W-135 is required or recommended for travellers to these areas.
Meningococcal Group B Vaccine
Meningococcal group B accounts for between 1/3 to 2/3 of the cases of invasive meningococcal disease depending on where you live. In BC, group B accounts for more than1/3 of the cases of meningococcal disease. In Canada, 80% of cases occur in infants under 1 year. The high risk groups for meningococcal group B disease are 0-1, 1-4 and 15-24 years. There have been outbreaks of this disease in U.S. universities. Group B meningococcal disease is different from A, C, Y, W-135 in that there are 8000 strains of the group B organism that can cause disease. It is felt that Bexsero will protect against at least 2/3 of the group B meningococcal strains that occur in Canada.
2-4 doses of vaccine are needed for protection depending on the age at which vaccination is started. When starting at 11 years or older, 2 doses are needed at least 1 month apart.
Meningococcal group B vaccine is highly recommended for infants between 0-1 years as well as students attending U.S. universities.
If you are travelling, call 604-736-9244 (before 5pm daily) to book your appointment. We are fully staffed to get your assessment, prescriptions, and vaccinations covered all in one visit.