Are Meningitis Vaccines Effective?

Are Meningitis Vaccines Effective?

Meningitis is a severe infection that attacks the brain and spinal cord. While the disease is considered rare, the repercussions can be serious and if left untreated, even life-threatening.

While many people understand the importance of vaccinations, there is still a bit of a stigma associated with treatments. People often wonder if they need them and how well they work.

It is necessary for people to understand the disease and those that are at higher risk so that they can play an active role in protecting the population as a whole from an avoidable condition.

Types of Meningitis

The disease can impact adults or children, and three main types may be contracted. The types include:

  • Bacterial – Bacterial meningitis is considered the most life-threatening because it spreads quickly and easily between people who are in close contact.
  • Viral – Viral meningitis is considered the least severe. In fact, many people recover with absolutely no medical treatment.
  • Fungal – Fungal meningitis is considered the rarest form. It most often occurs in individuals with a compromised immune system.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of the disease may differ slightly based on age and the strain of the illness.

In patients ages 2+:

  • Severe headache
  • Sudden spike in temperature
  • No appetite
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Lethargic
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Sensitive to light
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting

In newborns:

  • Constant crying
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Bulge in the soft spot of skull
  • Stiffness in the back or limbs
  • High fever

If you or your child experience one or more of the following symptoms, please contact your medical provider. Untreated symptoms could lead to more problems such as dehydration which may complicate the condition.

Risk Factors

While anybody can fall victim to this disease, certain factors make it more likely. Such factors include:

Risk factors may include:

  • Traveling to an area with more cases of meningitis (such as Africa).
  • Being within a particular age group (Ages 5 and under; Ages 16-24; and Ages 55+).
  • Individuals who are suffering from other medical issues such as immune disorders, long-term disease, or missing spleen.
  • People are living in close quarters such as college dorms or military barracks.

Vaccination Options

Fortunately, there is a vaccination that helps protect individuals from contracting this disease. The Center for Disease Control has set forth certain recommendations that outline the appropriate vaccination schedule. The vaccination is broken up into two dosages that are divided accordingly:

The Center for Disease Control has set forth certain recommendations that outline the appropriate vaccination schedule. The vaccination is broken up into two dosages that are divided accordingly:

  • The first dose is administered between the ages of 11-12 years with a booster shot at the age of 16.
  • If the dosage is administered between the ages of 13-15 years, then the booster shot should be administered between the ages of 16-18 years.

Follow the above guidelines to protect yourself against the illness best. If you fall outside of the above ages, you should consult your options with a medical professional.

How Well Does It Work?

Like all vaccinations, the meningitis vaccines work best if a large number of people participate in getting one. It does not work well if only a small portion of the population is protected.

However, there are studies to track how well the vaccine is working. The research indicated that most people demonstrate an immune response within one month of completing the vaccination series.

Although, the study goes on to suggest that meningitis is at an all-time low since the 1990’s, even before the treatment became popularly administered. Other forms of the disease have also been declining even before the vaccination for it was invented.

So does this mean that the vaccination doesn’t work? Not exactly.

What studies also indicate is that certain forms of meningitis have decreased by 80% in 11-19-year-olds since being advised to get the vaccination.

In short, the study suggests that the vaccination does protect those who have been given the vaccination, but is not doing much to protect the unvaccinated population. Additionally, many people need to be vaccinated to protect more than just the individual who receives the vaccination.

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

Vaccinations are necessary; however, meningitis vaccinations may not be appropriate for everyone. If you are interested in getting vaccinated, you should be aware of the limitations.

The following people should NOT get vaccinated:

  • Have an allergic reaction to any dose of the vaccine should avoid getting any future treatments.
  • Pregnant, you are at greater risk of contracting serogroup B.
  • Sick, you should wait until you are well to get the vaccine.

Where to Get the Vaccine

Your healthcare provider will be able to discuss if you are an ideal candidate for vaccination. Children are offered the vaccine as a regular part of their vaccination schedule.

Other places you may be able to get vaccinated:

  • Pharmacies
  • Health clinics
  • Schools
  • Religious centers
  • Health departments
  • Workplaces

Remember to discuss your options with your medical professional to make sure that you meet qualifications and that you are not at risk of developing complications.

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