Who needs the MenC Vaccine?

The MenC Vaccination offers immunisation against a class of bacteria responsible for an acute inflammation of the protective layer around the brain and spinal cord. This condition, meningitis, is caused by a number of different microorganisms, and is always classed a medical emergency because of the acute nature of the disease. Immunising against the agents causing meningitis is a priority amongst health authorities, and as of 1999 an effective vaccine against a large body of bacteria responsible for meningitis (meningococcal C bacteria) has been in popular use.

Since its introduction into routine vaccination, MenC has reduced the number of cases of meningitis caused by meningococcal C bacteria by 99%, a staggering figure that speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Moreover the vaccine has also proven to be extremely safe, and is well tolerated by people of all age groups and by people suffering from chronic medical conditions. This article looks at the current use of the MenC vaccine in the UK.

MenC for young children

Young children in the UK are entitled to three doses of MenC vaccine within a year of being born, this is enough to induce immunity against meningococcal class C bacteria. The first dose is given at three months of age, and is followed up by a booster dose a month later. A third and final dose is given as part of a 2-in-1 vaccine that also immunises against Haemophilus influenza B at the age of one year.

The vaccine is delivered into the thigh muscle and is very well tolerated, even by children in this age group who are suffering from chronic medical conditions. Side effects are uncommon, but if they do occur they are generally mild. Typical side effects include irritability and increased crying and mild fever. Some welling and redness at the site of injection is also relatively common.

If a baby has not received their initial two doses at the scheduled time they can receive two doses of the vaccine, one month apart, between five and twelve months of age. This is perfectly safe and will immunise them against meningitis C, however it is still advised that you follow the immunisation schedule and stick to the NHS recommended appointments.

MenC for under 25s

Children and young adults (1-24 year olds) who have not been adequately immunised against meningitis C are entitled to a single dose of the vaccine, this time administered into the upper arm. It is very important that you follow up on vaccination if you fit into this age bracket but have not been immunised against meningitis C.

Who shouldn’t have the MenC vaccine?

Because it is a conjugate vaccine made up of components from meningococcal C bacteria, the MenC injection is extremely safe and can be used by virtually anyone. Other vaccines, like those containing live virus or bacteria albeit in a weakened state, do have some important counter indications and can’t be safely used on the medically vulnerable. MenC on the other hand, has been well tolerated by young children with conditions as severe as epilepsy and congenital heart disease.

Pregnant and breast feeding women should not be given this particular vaccination unless they are at a particularly high risk of encountering the infection. These situations include a recent outbreak of meningitis, or recent close contact with someone suffering from the disease.

The MenC injection should not be given to anyone who has previously suffered anaphylactic shock after vaccination. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction involving respiratory distress and collapse, and while it can be quickly treated, it is still a safety concern which you will have to tell your doctor or nurse about.

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