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Meningococcal Vaccine

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Are Both Meningococcal Vaccines Equally Effective?

Both MCV4 and MPSV4 are about 90% effective in preventing meningococcal disease. There are actually several types of N meningitidis -- the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease. Both vaccines protect against four of those types, including two types that are the most common in the U.S.

MCV4 has not been available long enough to compare the long-term effectiveness of the two vaccines. But most experts think that MCV4 provides better, longer-lasting protection. 

Is It Possible to Get the Vaccine and Still Get Meningitis?

Because the vaccines do not protect against all causes of meningitis, it is still possible that someone could receive the vaccine and still get meningitis. But the risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis is significantly lower after the vaccine.

Vaccines like the Hib vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine are very effective at protecting against other causes of meningitis and should be included as part of a routine childhood vaccination schedule. Check with your doctor and your children's doctor to make sure that you and your family are protected against meningitis, as well as other serious illnesses.

Who Should Get Which Meningococcal Vaccine and When?

Although MCV4 is the preferred vaccine for most people, if it is not available when it's time for the vaccination, MPSV4 can be used.

Routine immunization with the meningococcal vaccine MCV4 is recommended for children aged 11 or 12, with a booster to be given between ages 16 and 18. It is also recommended for the following groups:

  • College freshmen living in a dorm
  • Military recruits
  • Someone who has a damaged spleen
  • Someone whose spleen has been removed
  • Someone with terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system problem)
  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • Someone traveling to or residing in a country where the disease is common
  • Someone who has been exposed to meningitis

Preteens who are 11 and 12 usually have the shot at their 11- or 12-year-old checkup. An appointment should be made to get the shot for teenagers who did not have it when they were 11 or 12.

The vaccine may be given to pregnant women. However, since MCV4 is a newer vaccine, there is limited data about its effect on pregnant women. It should only be used if clearly needed.

Anyone who is allergic to any component used in the vaccine should not get the vaccine. It's important to tell your doctor about all your allergies.

People with mild illness can usually get the vaccine. But people who are moderately or severely ill when it's time for the vaccine should wait until they recover.

Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome should discuss it with their doctor before getting a vaccination.

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