Thursday, December 11, 2008

Meningitis Vaccines: Effective or Not?

Did you know that there is a vaccine available for meningitis?

In fact many pediatricians administer the vaccine and many colleges encourage or require that incoming students be vaccinated. The vaccine is manufactured to prevent meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord that can be serious and even fatal. So, with the availability of a vaccine to protect against this dangerous infection, why hasn’t the disease gone the way of polio and been all but removed from the United States?

Is the vaccine effective?
There are several reasons why the meningitis vaccine has not been as effective as other vaccines. Perhaps, the most important reason is that the vaccines that are currently on the market do not protect against meningitis that is caused by type B bacteria and type B bacteria causes about one third of all meningitis cases. Further, the vaccines may not be effective if the person receiving the vaccine is acutely ill or on an immunosuppressive drug at the time he or she receives the vaccine. Another reason is that people who have sensitivities to thiomerosal or latex rubber should not receive the vaccine and they remain vulnerable to the infection.

It is also important to note that there are two meningitis vaccines on the market.

One of the vaccines is thought to provide long term protection. However, the other vaccine is only effective for 3-5 years. Therefore, when the vaccine wears off the person is once again vulnerable to the disease.

Facts about the vaccine
The vaccine takes between 7-10 days to become effective. Side effects of the vaccination are not usually severe but may include pain at the injection site, fever or headache. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of any vaccination, including the meningitis vaccination.

No comments: