Tag: viral meningitis

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

Meningitis Vaccines

Meningitis is classically defined as an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Infections that can cause meningitis include:

  • viruses – also called aseptic meningitis, it can be caused by enteroviruses, measles, mumps, and herpes, etc.
  • bacteria – Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Listeria monocytogenes, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Group B strep
  • a fungus – Cryptococcus, Histoplasma
  • parasites – uncommon
  • amebas – Naegleria fowleri

There are even non-infectious causes of meningitis, including the side-effects of medications and certain systemic illnesses.

Meningitis Vaccines

Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.
Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.

Fortunately, many of these diseases that cause meningitis are vaccine-preventable.

You don’t often think about them in this way, but all of the following vaccines are available to prevent meningitis, including:

  • Hib – the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria was a common cause of meningitis in the pre-vaccine era, in addition to causing epiglottitis and pneumonia
  • Prevnar – you mean it’s not just an ear infection vaccine?
  • MMR – both measles and mumps can cause meningitis
  • Menactra and Menveo – serogroup A, C, W, Y meningococcal vaccines
  • 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.

More on Meningitis Vaccines