We have gained an understanding as to the “who” and the “why” of Meningitis in our previous entries, however, it is now time we took a look at the “what.” In particular, the “what” in this case refers to information parents need to know in order to ensure that their child is protected from the preventable strains of the disease.
Meningitis vaccine research over the last decade has shown that young children/adults are at the top of the list for being at-risk in contracting a meningococcal infection. Thus, I thought this could be an opportunity to review the available vaccines and preventative treatments as well as the timeline for ensuring your child is adequately protected.
In the United States, there are 3 different vaccines available. Each of the three vaccines can prevent 4 different types of meningococcal infection. Combined, these 4 different strains account for almost 70% of the total reported cases in the country and are the best-known protection available. They are:
- Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4), sold as Menomune
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), sold as Menactra and Menveo
While the FDA has approved all 3, Menomune is licensed specifically for adult’s age 55 or older while Menactra and Menveo are recommended for ages 2-55. The reason MCV4 is preferred overall is because it not only reduces the carrier rates of the meningococcal bacteria (and thus the spread of the infection), but the protection it provides is ultimately longer lasting than MPSV4. It is important to mention that MPSV4 is still perfectly acceptable if MCV4 is not available.
Parents need to speak to their primary physicians about the available meningococcal vaccines for their children early on. The CDC recommends that the first injection be administered between the ages of 10-11, with a secondary booster shot around 15-16. There are certain cases where a child is more at-risk for contracting the infection, and can begin preventative treatment as early as 2-10 years of age.
Maintaining a dialogue with your doctor about when the right time to vaccinate your child is extremely important. There are certain children who may have an adverse reaction to a previous vaccination and must therefore be treated specifically in order to avoid a potential dangerous reaction.
The extent of known side effects of the vaccines are generally a red, swollen mark where the child received the injection, however, there are more severe yet much less common side effects as well. These include: trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, and a fast heartbeat or dizziness.
While the information contained here is admittedly not the most stimulating or thought provoking, it its nonetheless vital to the health and safety of our children. There have been countless fatalities on account of a meningococcal infection where parents learned afterwards that the life of their child could have been saved by simply becoming informed about the vaccinations available to them and taking action. As with any health concern, it is absolutely vital that you maintain an open dialogue with your doctor about your child’s health and wellbeing and what options are available to you to protect them.
Images Courtesy of: