Meningococcal Disease

I Lost My Friend To Meningitis

It only took 4 days for meningitis to take Leo's life.

Sherry's story

Listen to Sherry tell her story about how she lost her son to meningitis.

About the vaccine

Vaccines that protect against meningococcal infection are the best way to protect your child against this serious and sometimes fatal disease. 

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get meningococcal disease.

There are three types of vaccines that protect against either one (Men C or Men B) or four (Men A/C/Y/W-135) sub-types of meningococcal bacteria.

Meningococcal C (Men-C) Vaccine:

The meningococcal C conjugate vaccine protects against infection from one of the most common types of meningococcal bacteria, type C. It is provided for free as part of BC's routine infant immunization program.

The vaccine is given as a series of two doses to infants at 2 and 12 months of age. Previously, a booster dose of meningococcal C conjugate vaccine was given in grade 6 as part of the school-based immunization program. However starting in September 2016,  this booster dose of meningococcal C vaccine will be replaced with the meningococcal quadrivalent conjugate vaccine which will be offered for free as part of the school-based immunization program in grade nine. 

The Men-C vaccine is also provided free to people:

  • born before 2002 who are 24 years of age and under who did not get a dose of vaccine on or after their 10th birthday
  • 18 years of age and older who have had a stem cell transplant
  • who have been in close contact with someone with meningococcal type C disease

For more information about the Men-C vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Meningococcal C Conjugate (Men-C) Vaccine

Meningococcal Quadrivalent Vaccines:

The meningococcal quadrivalent vaccines protect against infection from four types of meningococcal bacteria: types A, C, Y and W-135. These vaccines are either conjugate or polysaccharide vaccines.  Conjugate vaccines are used in BC because they provide better protection against disease.

Starting in September 2016, a meningococcal quadrivalent conjugate vaccine will be offered for free to all grade nine students. This vaccine replaces the meningococcal C conjugate vaccine that was offered in grade six and will provide protection against four strains of meningococcal bacteria: types A, C, Y and W-135. 

The vaccine is also provided free to:

  • persons with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of infection from meningococcal bacteria
  • close contacts of a person with meningococcal A, Y, or W-135 disease, or those who are at risk of infection with these types of meningococcal bacteria during an outbreak (which rarely happens)

The vaccine is recommended, but not provided free to:

  • laboratory workers routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • military personnel
  • those living or travelling in a high risk area for meningococcal disease

The vaccine is usually given as 1 dose or shot. Sometimes, a second dose may be necessary. Your health care provider can provide you with this information.

People who are not eligible for a free vaccine but want to be protected against meningococcal A, C, Y and W-135 strains of the disease can purchase the quadrivalent vaccine at most travel clinics and pharmacies.

For more information about the vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Meningococcal Quadrivalent Vaccines

Meningococcal B (Men-B) Vaccine:

The Men-B vaccine protects against infection by one of the most common types of meningococcal bacteria, type B. This vaccine is not part of the publicly funded routine schedule of immunizations in BC.

In BC, the Men-B vaccine is provided free to those 2 months to 55 years of age who have been in close contact with a case of meningococcal B disease.

The Men-B vaccine is recommended, but not provided free, for those who are at risk of meningococcal B infection due to certain medical conditions including:

  • No spleen or a spleen that is not working properly
  • Immune system disorders including complement, properdin, factor D deficiencies, or primary antibody deficiency

The vaccine is also recommended, but not provided free for:

  • Laboratory workers routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • Military personnel
  • Those traveling to an area where the risk of meningococcal B disease is high

The vaccine is given by injection as a series of 2, 3 or 4 doses depending upon the age at which the immunization series is started.

People who want to be protected against meningococcal B disease may purchase the vaccine at some travel clinics and pharmacies.

For more information about the vaccine, the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Meningococcal B (Men-B) Vaccine.

About the disease

  • Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection caused by a germ (or bacteria)
  • Meningococcal infections are serious and life-threatening infections and include meningitis, an infection of the lining that covers the brain, and septicemia, an infection of the blood
  • For every 100 children who get sick, up to 15 will die
  • Permanent complications of infection include brain damage and deafness
  • Symptoms include headache, fever and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light (photophobia), confusion, and a purplish skin rash. Anyone with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention
  • Meningococcal disease is spread from one person to another by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through saliva or spit.

There is less Meningococcal type C disease in BC because of routine childhood vaccination programs.

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More vaccine preventable disease images