Most folks know that there are several meningitis vaccines.
Is Meningitis a Side Effect of Vaccines?
So why would some people think that vaccines could actually cause meningitis?
Meningitis is listed as a possible adverse event in the package insert of some vaccines, but only in the section that includes spontaneously reported data from post-marketing experience, where it “may not be possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to vaccine exposure.”
These adverse reactions are listed “because of the seriousness OR frequency of reporting.” They are not included because they are serious AND frequent, as some anti-vaccine sites like to proclaim.
How Could a Vaccine Cause Meningitis?
When you think about it, how could a vaccine actually cause someone to develop meningitis?
Why would you even think this is true?
Meningitis is typically caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, or fungus, etc.
While a live virus vaccine might rarely be able to cause an infection, few of the meningitis vaccines are live virus vaccines. Prevnar, Hib and the meningococcal vaccines are all sub-unit vaccines. Since only a part of bacteria (antigens) is actually present in the vaccine, it is not possible for them to cause an infection.
What about the live virus vaccines, like MMR, chicken pox, and rotavirus?
Since these viral infections rarely cause meningitis, except for mumps, you wouldn’t expect the rare vaccine induced infection to cause meningitis either. A natural measles infection, for example, is more likely to cause encephalitis instead.
“…there is no evidence to link Jeryl Lynn mumps vaccine to aseptic meningitis.”
MMR Package Insert
What about the chicken pox vaccine? There is a case report of a vaccinated child who later developed shingles and meningitis, caused by vaccine strain chicken pox virus. He recovered fully and it is important to note that folks with natural chicken pox are thought to be even more likely to develop shingles, and they too can develop meningitis.
The bottom line is that if someone has meningitis, even if they were recently vaccinated, you shouldn’t be blaming the vaccines.
What to Know About Meningitis and Vaccine Package Inserts
Although included in some vaccine package inserts, except for rare circumstances with some live virus vaccines, none actually claim that vaccines cause meningitis.
More on Meningitis and Vaccine Package Inserts
- Do Vaccines Cause Meningitis or Encephalitis/Encephalopathy?
- Package Inserts
- Study – Risk of hospitalization because of aseptic meningitis after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in one- to two-year-old children: an analysis of the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project.
- Herpes zoster and meningitis due to reactivation of varicella vaccine virus in an immunocompetent child.
- FDA – Draft Guidance for Industry: Postmarketing Safety Reporting for Human Drug and Biological Products Including Vaccines
- FDA – Guidance for Industry: FDA Review of Vaccine Labeling Requirements for Warnings, Use Instructions, and Precautionary Information
- Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – debunking myths
- Package Inserts – Understanding What They Do (and Don’t) Say
- Vaccine Package Inserts: Not all you should be reading
- Anti-vaccine parents and the package insert paradox
- Debunking anti-vaccine arguments: VAERS, package inserts, and the VICP do not prove that vaccines are dangerous
- The vaccine package insert paradox
- Myths That Keep People From Vaccinating Their Kids
- How to Read A Package Insert