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Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Meningococcal Vaccine Program

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.

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.

How to Prevent Meningococcal Disease

  • Get immunized.
  • To prevent spreading the germs, avoid sharing items that have been in someone else’s mouth, for example, a cup, food, or a toothbrush.

Protecting Against Meningococcal Disease through Immunization

In Canada, there are four types of vaccines that prevent meningococcal disease:

Meningococcal C (Conjugate)

  • Protects against one strain of meningococcal disease: C only.
  • Since 2005, routine immunization against meningococcal C disease has been recommended and publicly funded for children one year of age.
  • In the 2004/2005 school year, students in grade 7 and 15-19 year olds were offered the vaccine as a ‘catch-up’ program.
  • Students who were born between 1986 and 1996 remain eligible for a single dose of the meningococcal C vaccine at their family doctor.
  • Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, Meningococcal C vaccine will be required to attend school or provide a valid exemption for children born on or after September 1, 2004 (under age 12).

Meningococcal B (Multi-component)

  • Protects against one strain of meningococcal disease: B only.
  • Authorized for use in Canada for people between age 2 months to 17 years
  • This vaccine is not part of the routine immunization schedule and is publicly funded for high risk individuals only.
  • For additional information: Meningococcal B Vaccine.
  • Talk to your doctor about the Meningococcal B vaccine.

Meningococcal ACYW-135 (Polysaccharide)

  • Protects against four strains of meningococcal disease; A, C, Y, and W-135.
  • The polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine is available in Canada but its use is not routinely recommended as conjugate vaccines are most commonly used.
  • This vaccine may be used during outbreak situations.

Meningococcal ACYW-135 (Conjugate):

  • Protects against four strains of meningococcal disease; A, C, Y, and W-135.
  • Since the 2009-2010 school year, meningococcal ACYW-135 conjugate vaccine has been offered to grade 7 students in Ontario through school-based clinics replacing the meningococcal C grade 7 program.
  • Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, Meningococcal ACYW-135 vaccine will be required to attend school for children born on or after January 1, 1997 (12 years and over).
  • The vaccine is safe and effective. 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 whole virus. It contains only pieces of the virus, so you cannot be infected with meningococcal disease by getting the vaccine.

The Grade 7 Meningococcal ACYW-135 (Conjugate) Immunization Program

*NEW: Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, students 12 years of age and older will be required to have the meningococcal ACYW-135 vaccine or provide a valid exemption.
  • Consents are sent home with all grade 7 students in the fall of each school year and written parental/legal guardian permission is required for all students under 14 years of age.
    Information on how to fill out the Hepatitis B/Meningococcal Consent Form - [PDF]
  • Grade 7 students with a valid consent will be given one dose of the Meningococcal ACYW-135 vaccine by Registered Nurses at school-based clinics.
  • Students who were eligible for this vaccine in grade 7 but didn’t receive it in their grade 7 year can still receive it in grade 8.

    Grade 8 Meningococcal Clinic Schedule

    Please note: The schedule may be subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances (weather, scheduling conflicts).

  • If your child is not in a traditional school setting, please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700 to discuss available options for getting the vaccine.

Meningococcal ACYW-135 High School Catch-up Clinics

*NEW: Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, students 12 years of age and older will be required to have the meningococcal ACYW-135 vaccine or provide a valid exemption.

As of July 2014, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care made changes to the Immunization of School Pupils Act legislation. Previously, the meningococcal immunization was a voluntary vaccine provided to students in Grade 7/8. Now, in Ontario all students are required to be immunized against meningococcal disease or provide a valid exemption. This vaccine is only available at Peel Public Health clinics and is not available from the family doctor. Grade 7/8 students will receive the vaccine at their school clinic.

Grade 9 to Grade 12 students require Men-C-ACYW135 (Menactra®). Peel Public Health is working on a revised clinic strategy for secondary school students who require meningococcal vaccine. Parents/students will be notified by direct mail once our strategy is finalized. We apologize for the inconvenience and for any confusion caused by our letters. We acknowledge that this is frustrating for parents and students.

Reliable Resources on Meningococcal Disease and the Meningococcal Vaccine

For more information call Peel Health at 905-799-7700.

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Immunize On Time. Report Every Time.

Revised: Thursday November 12 2015

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