Meningococcal diseases are caused by a germ (a kind of bacteria) called meningococcus. This germ can cause two serious diseases:
- Meningitis, an infection of the fluid and lining that cover the brain and spinal cord, and
- Septicemia, a serious blood infection that can damage many organs in the body.
Without treatment, almost all children who get meningococcal disease will die or suffer damage that lasts the rest of their lives.
How can I protect my child?
There are three kinds of meningococcal vaccine available in Canada. Each vaccine provides different protection:
- Meningococcal C vaccine (MCV-C) is usually given to babies and young children. It protects against type C of the meningococcus germ, which used to be very common before this vaccine was available.
- MCV-4 protects against 4 types of the meningococcal germ (A, C, Y and W135). This vaccine is usually only given to people at higher risk of getting meningococcal disease (those with no spleen or who have certain medical conditions). In some provinces it is given to all teenagers.
- 4CMenB protects children against group B. This vaccine is not given routinely but is usually given to children at higher risk of getting meningococcal disease.
Your doctor will know which vaccine is best for your child, and at what age.
When should my child get the vaccine?
- Your child should be immunized with MCV-C at 12 months of age. Your child may get earlier doses, started anytime between 2 and 12 months of age, depending on your province or territory’s immunization program.
- Teens should get a dose of MCV-4 or MCV-C, usually at about 12 years of age.
- Children at higher risk for meningococcal disease (children with no spleen or who have certain medical conditions) should receive MCV-4 and 4CMenB starting as early as 2 months of age. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.
How safe is the vaccine?
- Meningococcal vaccines are very safe and effective.
- They may cause redness, swelling or tenderness for a short time where the needle was put in.
Who should not get the vaccine?
- People who have had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine (swelling of the face or lips, difficulty breathing or if your blood pressure drops) should not get it again unless seen by a specialist and vaccinated in a special clinic that can control severe reactions.
Where and when can I get the vaccine?
Talk to your doctor or local public health clinic to find out where and when your child should get vaccinated.
- The cost of MCV-C is covered everywhere in Canada.
- Many provinces currently cover the cost of MCV-4 vaccine.
- Currently, no provinces or territories cover the cost of 4CMenB for all children. Some provide it for children at high risk of getting meningococcal disease. It was newly approved for use by Health Canada late in 2013.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Last Updated: August 2015