Tag: meningococcal vaccines

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

Can you guess what happens when you ask for advice about vaccines in an anti-vaccine Facebook Group?

Meningitis is not a side effect of vaccines.

What could go wrong?

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

While most of us are used to hearing about meningococcal meningitis being a big risk for teens and young adults, it is important to realize that rates of disease are also high for infants, with a second peak during adolescence.

The highest rates of meningococcal disease occurs during infancy and adolescence.

So why don’t we routinely vaccinate infants against meningococcal disease?

Many countries do, including Australia and the UK, and in the United States, high risk infants are vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

If you were on the fence but were advised by your paediatrician (Australian spelling) to get vaccinated and protected because a child in your town had just died, would you get vaccinated?

Or would you listen to folks in an anti-vaccine Facebook group who tried to convince you that meningitis was actually a side effect of getting vaccinated?

Folks who insist that deaths from vaccine-preventable disease aren’t real and that instead, they are actually vaccine-injuries?

We know what happens when you ask for vaccine advice in an anti-vaccine Facebook group. The members push their propaganda to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Don’t listen to them. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

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

At What Age Should Kids Get a Meningococcal Vaccine?

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.

Simple, right?

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…

Why?

  • 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
  • many folks don’t understand the recommendations for the MenB vaccines

What’s the answer?

It is not to skip or delay your child’s meningococcal vaccine, of course.

Older teens and young adults are at much higher risk of meningococcal disease than younger school age children.
Older teens and young adults are at much higher risk of meningococcal disease than younger school age children.

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.

More on Ages to Give Meningococcal Vaccines

Is Meningitis a Side Effect of Vaccines?

Most folks know that there are several meningitis vaccines.

Hib, Prevnar, MMR, and the meningococcal vaccines, for example, all protect folks against meningitis.

Is Meningitis a Side Effect of Vaccines?

So why would some people think that vaccines could actually cause meningitis?

Is meningitis listed on the package insert of any vaccines?
Is meningitis listed on the package insert of any vaccines?

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.”

It is just like when folks find autism or SIDS in a vaccine’s package insert and think that it is evidence that vaccines are associated with autism or SIDS.

SIDS and autism are listed in Tripedia package insert, but are not causally linked to the vaccine.
SIDS and autism are listed in Tripedia package insert, but are not causally linked to the vaccine.

It isn’t.

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.

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.

More on Meningitis and Vaccine Package Inserts