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The Meningitis Vaccines: What Parents Should Know

Who should not get a meningococcal vaccine?

Your preteen or teen should not get the meningococcal vaccine if he or she has had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous meningococcal vaccine, to any vaccine component, is moderately or severely ill (the vaccine may need to be rescheduled), or has ever been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Pregnant women can receive the meningococcal vaccine, but its use must be clearly indicated. With the newer MCV4 vaccines, there hasn't been as much study in pregnant women compared to the MPSV4 vaccine.

 

What are the possible side effects of meningococcal vaccines?

Mild side effects occur in about half those who have the vaccine. They may include redness or pain at the injection site. These side effects last no longer than one or two days.

Serious side effects are very rare and may include high fever, weakness, and changes in behavior. Severe allergic reactions may occur within minutes or hours of having the vaccination. These are signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Fast heartbeat or dizziness

If these signs appear, your child should get to a doctor right away, describe the reaction, and report it by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form. The doctor or health department can help with this.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious nervous system disorder that has shown up in some people who have received MCV4. It is so rare, though, that doctors are not even sure that there is a clear link to the vaccine.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 02, 2012

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