Is the Meningococcal Vaccine More Dangerous Than Meningococcal Disease?

No one who has ever seen a child with meningococcal disease would ever think that it was even remotely possible that getting a meningococcal vaccine was more dangerous than getting the disease.

“The case-fatality ratio of meningococcal disease is 10% to 15%, even with appropriate antibiotic therapy. The case-fatality ratio of meningococcemia is up to 40%. As many as 20% of survivors have permanent sequelae, such as hearing loss, neurologic damage, or loss of a limb.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

Of course, that doesn’t stop anti-vaccine folks from spreading misinformation about these vaccines to try and scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Is the Meningococcal Vaccine More Dangerous Than Meningococcal Disease?

We actually vaccinate against meningitis with many different vaccines, including Hib, Prevnar, MMR, and the meningococcal vaccines.

And there are different types of meningococcal vaccines, including those that protect against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W, Y and Men B.

Meningococcal vaccines are safe and effective against meningococcemia and meningococcal meningitis, both terrible diseases.
Meningococcal vaccines are safe and effective against meningococcemia and meningococcal meningitis, both terrible diseases.

So routine vaccinations likely prevent up to 500 meningitis deaths each year, just in the United States, including many deaths from Hib meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, and meningococcal disease.

“During 2005-2011, an estimated 800-1,200 cases of meningococcal disease occurred annually in the United States, representing an incidence of 0.3 cases per 100,000 population.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

What about the idea that 1 in 100 people will have a serious reaction to the vaccine?

“The most frequently reported adverse events for MenACWY-D include fever (16.8%), headache (16.0%) injection site erythema (14.6%), and dizziness (13.4%). Syncope was reported in 10.0% of reports involving MenACWY-D. Of all reported MenACWY-D events, 6.6% were coded as serious (i.e., resulted in death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization, prolongation of hospitalization, or permanent disability). Serious events included headache, fever, vomiting, and nausea. A total of 24 deaths (0.3%) were reported.”

Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (PinkBook)

The serious events listed above were from the clinical trials for the vaccine and didn’t differ between the vaccine and placebo.

Although meningococcal vaccines can have frequent mild side effects, they very rarely have serious side effects.

Not everything that happens during a clinical trial is related to the vaccine, even though it still gets reported. Another Menactra trial reported no deaths and the serious adverse events that were reported weren’t related to getting vaccinated.

Here is another meningococcal study in which a few of the participants died – one in a car accident and the other a drug overdose.

These deaths were not related to getting vaccinated, but were listed because they occurred during the study.
These deaths were not related to getting vaccinated, but were listed because they occurred during the study.

Unfortunately, vaccines can’t protect you from everything…

It would be especially nice if they could protect us from bad anti-vaccine memes.

More on Meningococcal Vaccine Safety

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