“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?
And there are different types of meningococcal vaccines, including those that protect against Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W, Y and Men B.
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.
Here is another meningococcal study in which a few of the participants died – one in a car accident and the other a drug overdose.
Unfortunately, vaccines can’t protect you from everything…
Knowing when to give or get a vaccine doesn’t usually cause any confusion.
You simply have to check the immunization schedule.
Take the meningococcal vaccines, for example. Most parents and pediatricians understand that kids get them before entering middle school and again before going off to college. And some high risk kids should get them even earlier, as infants.
At What Age Should Kids Get a Meningococcal Vaccine?
Actually, there are some things that make it a little more complicated than it should be…
some overnight and summer camps are actually starting to require a dose of meningococcal vaccine for younger kids, even though this is not a formal recommendation of the CDC or AAP
some parents might request a dose of meningococcal vaccine for younger kids going to overnight and summer camps, even though this is not a formal recommendation of the CDC or AAP
some folks are misunderstanding recommendations that campers be up-to-date on all immunizations as a recommendation that they get an early meningococcal vaccine
getting an early dose, before age 10 years won’t count as the middle school dose, and will need to be repeated
some states have very strict laws on timing, like that kids have to get their meningococcal vaccine before starting 6th grade, but only after they turn 11 years old, which creates a problem for those kids who start 6th grade before they are 11 years old
It is not to skip or delay your child’s meningococcal vaccine, of course.
Instead, states should likely institute their meningococcal vaccine laws to require a dose before entering 7th grade, that way, most will have plenty of time to get it while they are in 6th grade. Or at least keep to the standard minimum age of 10 years for a dose to count towards middle school requirements.
What about a meningococcal vaccine for campers?
“In New York State, PHL Article 21, Title 6, Section 2167 also requires the notification of campers and parents about recommendations for and the availability of meningococcal vaccine for all campers attending overnight camps for a period of 7 or more consecutive nights. Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine is recommended at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose at age 16 years. Please note that the NYSDOH does not recommend that campers receive either dose of MenACWY vaccine before the recommended ages. Students who are vaccinated before the recommended ages may need to have the doses repeated in order to attend school.”
Recommended Immunizations for Campers
Unless they are in a high risk group, folks should likely stick to the standard ages of the immunization schedule to get their kids vaccinated.
And keep in mind that if your child does get an early dose, it won’t count as part of the routine series and will have to be repeated.
“Doses of quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (either MPSV4 or MenACWY) given before 10 years of age should not be counted as part of the routine 2-dose series. If a child received a dose of either MPSV4 or MenACWY before age 10 years, they should receive a dose of MenACWY at 11 or 12 years and a booster dose at age 16 years.”
Ask the Experts Meningococcal ACWY
Talk to your pediatrician about an early dose if the extra coverage is important to you though. It will protect your child, but isn’t a general recommendation because younger kids have a lower risk for disease and vaccinating everyone likely wouldn’t impact disease rates that much.
Another situation in which getting an extra dose may be required is if you are traveling to a high risk part of the world. In this case, the extra dose is essential, even if it has to be repeated later.
Anti-vaccine folks rarely talk about the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. For that matter, they also often push the idea that vaccines don’t even work and that these diseases aren’t even vaccine preventable, don’t they?
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.”
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.
Like they do with VAERS reports, misusing package inserts is a common method that anti-vaccine folks use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
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.
It is bad enough that folks in the anti-vaccine movement use propaganda to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
“The anti-vaccine argument is wrong in both the scientific and moral sense.”
Sarah Kurchak on Here’s How the Anti-Vaccination Movement Hurts Autistic People
Many people also think that the anti-vaccine message is anti-autism.
How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Takes Advantage of Dead Children and Their Parents
But just when you thought that they couldn’t go any lower, folks in the anti-vaccine movement find new ways to demonstrate their lacks of morals.
As a physician, I assure you this story isn’t believable at any level. In my opinion, the “health officials” are conjuring meningitis fairy tales about an “unvaccinated” boogeyman to cover for the much more probable cause of this child’s death: VACCINES.
The much more likely cause is right in front of us: “The child had just received his 4-month-old vaccinations two days beforehand.”
“Notice that THREE of the vaccines given at 4 months are for organisms capable of invading the brain and causing MENINGITIS. Rotavirus is a live virus vaccine capable of shedding from recently vaccinated children. The vaccine pre-clinical trials lacked placebo controls and were associated with infant deaths.
It doesn’t take my medical degree to understand how flimsy are the claims in this story.”
While rotavirus is a live virus vaccine, rotavirus rarely causes central nervous system disease. And he died of bacterial meningitis. It shouldn’t take a medical degree to know that rotavirus is a virus, not a bacteria.
While two of the other vaccines routinely given at four months do actually protect you from meningitis, both Prevnar and Hib are sub-unit vaccines, so can’t actually cause disease. Unfortunately, at four months, he would have been only partially protected against Prevnar and Hib, having only received two of four dosages of those vaccines.
“They expect the general public to be ignorant of the fact that we can actually measure the presence of the meningitis causing organisms for which there are vaccines: Haemophilus influenzae, Pneumococcus, and Meningococcus. So, where are the tests that confirm the presence of one of these “vaccine preventable” organisms?! Where’s the spinal tap/CSF pathology report?
As hard as it is for a grieving family to conceive of an autopsy, I pray the family demands a confirmation of the farcical cause of death being contrived in this case.”
Has Jim Meehan heard of HIPAA?
Does he read any of the other messages when he is writing his own comments about this family?
Is Jim Meehan really a doctor? It shouldn’t take a medical degree to understand that carriers of a disease don’t usually have symptoms of the disease.
“Again, from the article: “Health care officials told Dempsey they BELIEVE an unvaccinated person was carrying meningitis and Killy happened to come into contact with that person.”
They “believe”…give me a break. It should have said, “they made-up a story to cover for the real cause.”
SECOND, people don’t walk around with meningitis. They lay in their beds in a dark room and writhe in pain.
THIRD, the likelihood that an unvaccinated individual was walking around with meningitis is vanishingly small. To even list that in the top 100 options of a differential diagnosis is pure fiction.
FOURTH, where is this hypothetical unvaccinated meningitis shedding “patient zero?” He or she would have been so obviously sick that there is no way new parents would not remember the likely suspect…unless the suspect never existed.”
In this case, with a meningococcal infection, which is what the infant is thought to have, about 10% of people are carriers, asymptomatically having the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria in their nose or throat.
In the United States, we have two types of meningococcal vaccines, neither of which is routinely given to infants:
Menactra and Menveo – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that protect against serogroups A, C, W, Y and first given when kids are 11 to 12 years old, with a booster at age 16 years.
Bexsero and Trumenba – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that only protect against serogroup B and can be given to kids at increased risk and teens and young adults who want to reduce their risk of getting MenB disease
The only other possibility, since they mentioned that exposed people received antibiotics, would be the Hib bacteria.
“In the prevaccine era, Hib could be isolated from the nasopharynx of 0.5%–3% of normal infants and children but was not common in adults.”
CDC on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Again, these carriers can be contagious, even though they don’t have any symptoms.
“It’s likely that these “health officials” are covering for the pharmaceutical/vaccine industry that pays them so well. It’s “health officials” like this that for decades have pretended that sudden unexplained infant death syndrome (SUIDS), not only has no explanation, but it couldn’t possibly be related to the injection of neurotoxic doses of aluminum into the bodies of tiny baby humans. They can ignore the clustering of infant deaths that occurs around the same times that CDC recommends multiple (5-13) vaccines at one visit, but I won’t.”
Why is a family that just lost their child getting harassed by anti-vaccine folks?
One clue is that Jim Meehan is pushing the idea that there is a Big Pharma conspiracy behind this child’s death.
And there are many anti-vaccine parenting groups that are helping spread his message around.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
Anti-vaccine folks routinely hound parents who die of SIDS and shaken baby syndrome, working to convince them that vaccines caused their deaths.
“Comparisons between rates obtained from immunization records versus the total sample (records and recall) conducted on data collected between 1979 and 1983 showed that the USIS, which accepted parental recall, underestimated the true vaccination rate in preschoolers by as much as 23% for some antigens.”
Simpson et al on Forty years and four surveys: How does our measuring measure up?
The vaccination rates he is citing were based on a phone survey that wasn’t thought to be very accurate, underestimating true vaccination rates. It was last used in 1985.
While vaccination rates weren’t great at the time, they just weren’t as horrible as he makes it seem, but we still had some deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. Not as bad as the pre-vaccine era though, when hundreds of people died with measles each year.
Unfortunately, it got worse. This was just before the large measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991, when 123 people died. During those three years, there were also 28 deaths from pertussis, 6 deaths from mumps, 13 deaths from rubella and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome!
Deaths from non-Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 1985
Many of the diseases on J.B. Handley’s chart weren’t yet vaccine-preventable in 1985. They were quite deadly though, which is why vaccines were being developed and were eventually added to the schedule to protect our kids from getting them.
But in 1985 (*or in the years before the vaccine was introduced), tragically, the CDC lists:
80 deaths from hepatitis A
490 deaths from hepatitis B
68 deaths from chicken pox
219 deaths from Hib meningitis in children and about another 45 deaths from Hib epiglotittis
at least 200 deaths from pneumococcal disease in children*
257 deaths from meningococcal infections
20 to 60 deaths each year from rotavirus infections*
Want us to Turn Back the Clock and go back to an immunization plan (the Jenny McCarthy schedule) that didn’t include vaccines against any of these diseases? We would end up back to when kids still died of meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections, severe dehydration, epiglottitis, and cancer from Hib, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chicken pox, HPV, and meningococcal disease.
And the answer to Mr. Handley’s question becomes even more obvious.
How did we survive the 1980s with vaccination rates well below “herd immunity” thresholds and far fewer vaccines?
Many people didn’t.
What to Know About Deaths and Vaccination Rates
Poor vaccination rates and fewer vaccines led to more deaths from now vaccine preventable diseases in the mid-1980s.
Bexsero and Trumenba – serogroup B meningococcal vaccines
But just because your child has been vaccinated doesn’t mean that you are in the clear if they are exposed to someone with meningitis. They might still need preventative antibiotics if they are exposed to someone with Hib or meningococcal meningitis.
Still, getting fully vaccinated on time is the best way to prevent many of these types of meningitis and other life-threatening diseases.
What to Know About Meningitis Vaccines
Learn which vaccines are available to provide protection against bacterial and viral meningitis.