Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Meningococcal ACYW-135 (Men ACYW-135) Vaccine

What is Meningococcal Disease?

  • Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by several different strains of meningococcus, bacterium also known as Neisseria meningitidis.
  • The bacteria that cause this illness are commonly found in the nose and throat secretions of healthy people (i.e. mucous, saliva, cough).
  • Exposure to the bacteria occurs through direct contact with saliva or sharing of oral secretions i.e. sharing drinks, utensils, toothbrushes etc.

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How Meningococcal Disease Affects Your Health

  • Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or meningococcemia (an infection of the blood).
  • There are several different strains of the bacteria that cause disease, which are referred to as A, B, C, Y, W-135.
  • Signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, drowsiness, impaired consciousness, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and a reddish skin rash that appears flat and smooth.
  • Meningococcal disease can appear suddenly and cause the following complications:
    • Brain damage,
    • Deafness,
    • Seizures and other problems with the central nervous system,
    • Amputation of one or more limbs,
    • Death.
  • Meningococcal disease is fatal in 8-15% of all cases.

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Protecting Against Meningococcal Disease through Immunization

  • In Canada, there are three types of vaccines that prevent meningococcal disease:
    • A conjugate vaccine that protects against meningococcal type C,
    • A conjugate vaccine that protects against four strains of meningococcal: A, C, Y and W-135,
    • A polysaccharide vaccine that provides short term protection against four strains of meningococcal: A, C, Y, and W-135.  This vaccine is used primarily during outbreak situations.
  • Currently there is no vaccine to protect against meningococcal B.
  • Since the 2009-2010 school year, meningococcal ACYW-135 quadrivalent conjugate vaccine (Men ACYW-135) has been offered to grade 7 students in Ontario through in school-based clinics.
  • Men ACYW-135 protects against meningococcal disease for four of the five most common strains of bacterial meningococcal disease; A, C, Y, and W-135.
  • According to the vaccine manufacturer, the Men ACYW-135 vaccine is close to 100% effective in producing the antibodies needed to prevent meningococcal disease cause by strains A, C, Y and W-135
  • The vaccine is safe.  The most common side effects reported include: redness, soreness or swelling at the site where the needle was given.  Fever, headache, tiredness and/or muscle aches are also common.
  • The vaccine does not contain the virus. It contains only pieces of the virus, so you cannot be infected by the virus from the vaccine.
  • The vaccine is licensed for individuals 2 to 55 years of age.
  • Students who were eligible in grade 7 and have not yet received the vaccine remain eligible for a single dose of Men ACYW-135.
  • Prior to the 2009-2010 school year, students in grade 7 were offered the monovalent conjugate vaccine protecting against meningococcal type C.
  • Students who were born between 1986 and 1996 are still eligible for a single dose of the monovalent meningococcal C (Men C) vaccine. This vaccine only provides protection against serogroup C.
  • Men C is also available for grade 7 students who do not wish to be immunized with Men ACYW-135.
  • Individuals who have been in close contact with a person who has invasive meningococcal disease may be eligible to receive this vaccine for free. Health care providers should consult with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for more details.
  • Individuals between the ages of 2 and 55 years with certain high risk medical conditions (e.g. people with no or poorly functioning spleens), certain immunodeficiency or cochlear implant recipients are eligible to receive the Men ACYW-135 vaccine. Ask your doctor if you have questions about whether you’re your medical condition makes you eligible for the vaccine.

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The Grade 7 Meningococcal ACYW-135 Immunization Program

  • Consents are sent home to all grade 7 students in the fall of each school year and parental/legal guardian permission is required for all students under 14 years of age.
  • Immunization against meningococcal ACYW-135 is voluntary but is strongly recommended by Peel Public Health.
  • Grade 7 students with a valid consent will be given one dose of the vaccine by registered nurses at school-based clinics.
  • If your child has already received the meningococcal C vaccine, a period of one month between the Men C vaccine and the Men ACYW-135 vaccine is recommended.
  • The school immunization clinic schedule is available through the school or Peel Public Health.
  • If your child is not in a traditional school setting, please call Peel Public Health to discuss available options for getting the vaccine.

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How to Prevent Meningococcal Disease

  • Be immunized.  Meningococcal disease can have a sudden onset and is potentially life threatening.
  • Avoid or reduce behaviours where saliva or body fluids are exchanged to reduce the risk.

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Reliable Resources on Meningococcal Disease and the Meningococcal Vaccine

For More Information Call Peel Health at: 905-799-7700.
Caledon Residents Can Call Free Of Charge at 905-584-2216.

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Immunize On Time. Report Every Time.

Revised: Wednesday November 06 2013

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