MenC (meningococcal C) vaccine

  • MenC containing vaccines in the UK and Irish immunisation schedules provides excellent protection against meningitis and septicaemia caused by group C meningococcal bacteria. 
  • The MenC vaccination campaign was introduced in the UK in 1999 and in Ireland in 2000.
  • Before the vaccine was routinely available group C meningococcal disease killed about 150 people in the UK every year.
  • Following vaccine introduction, cases of group C disease fell by over 90% in the age groups targeted for vaccination.
  • Case numbers have continued to fall and as a result of the ongoing vaccination programme disease incidence is now at a very low level. 
Who should be immunised with MenC vaccine?

Currently in England, Wales and Northern Ireland children have their first dose of MenC vaccine at 12-13 months of age as a combined Hib/MenC vaccine.*

A routine booster dose is being given at around 14 years of age (school years 9 or 10 in England and Wales and 11 in Northern Ireland) as a combined MenACWY vaccine at the same time as the current teenage Td/IPV booster.

More information about the MenACWY vaccine

Prior to 1st July 2016 all UK infants received MenC vaccine at 3 months of age. However the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) made the decision to remove this dose. This dose was removed because the vaccination programme has worked so well that there are now very few cases of invasive MenC disease in the UK. Boosting protection against MenC in teenagers with the MenACWY vaccination programme is expected to sustain good protection amongst all age groups by reducing the transmission and spread of the bacteria amongst the population so the risk to infants will remain low into the future.

*MENC VACCINATION IN SCOTLAND

Scottish children are currently immunised with MenC vaccine at 3 months of age with two booster doses, one at 12-13 months (Hib/MenC vaccine) and another at in school year S3 at around 14 years of age (MenACWY vaccine). The 3 month dose will be removed from the schedule from September 5th in keeping with JCVI recommendations.

MENC VACCINATION IN IRELAND

In Ireland the MenC vaccination is given at 4 and 13 months with a booster at 12-13 years. The MenC booster is given as part of the school immunisation programme to children in their 1st year of second level school in the second or third term of the academic year.

A catch up campaign to vaccinate first year university students in the UK will take place for a limited time.

Information for under 25 year olds

Anyone in this age group who has not received any dose of the vaccine can arrange to be immunised by contacting their GP.

Information for people without a functioning spleen

People with no spleen, with a disease or condition that stops their spleen from functioning properly and those who have complement disorders are at high risk of serious bacterial infection. People with the above medical conditions, may need extra meningococcal vaccinations and should contact their GP to discuss this. 

Are MenC containing vaccines safe?

  • Yes, all MenC containing vaccines used in the routine immunisation schedule in the UK and Ireland have been proven to be safe and effective.
  • It is never possible to be sure that a child will not react seriously to any medicine, vaccine or even food, but parents make decisions every day about the level of risk that is acceptable to them. The risk of severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis to any vaccine in the routine schedule is tiny. One study found no cases of anaphylaxis related to vaccines given as part of the ‘routine’ infant and preschool immunisation programme, despite over 5.5 million vaccines being delivered over the study period1. Although the risk of getting Group C meningococcal disease is not high, it outweighs any small risk from the vaccine.
  • The MenC containing vaccine are not 'live' and cannot cause even a mild form of meningitis or septicaemia.
How do MenC containing vaccines work?

  • Conjugate vaccines are made by linking a tiny fragment from the bacteria's sugar coat (polysaccharide) to a protein. Our immune systems respond much more strongly to proteins than to sugars, so conjugate vaccines trigger a long-lasting immune response, and are effective in babies as young as two months of age.
Who should not be given the MenC vaccine?

  • There are very few people who cannot receive meningococcal vaccines. People who have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction (not just a sore arm or a mild temperature) to a previous dose of MenC vaccine or to any component of the MenC vaccine should not have it2 .
  • Vaccination should be postponed in anyone who is ill with a high fever. 
Is there a problem with 'multiple' vaccines?

Some parents might be worried that having DTP, Hib, polio and MenC together will overload babies' immature immune systems.
  • Trials showed that all of these vaccines are safe and effective when given together.
  • Vaccines do not 'overload' the immune system3. In order to work, vaccines must bring on a response from the immune system, but everyday mishaps like scraped knees and sore throats place more of a demand on the immune system than the combination of MenC and all of the routine vaccinations for babies.
  • Routine vaccinations are timed to protect babies when they need it most.
Although the MenC vaccine has been tremendously successful, it is important to remember that not all forms of meningitis and septicaemia are vaccine preventable and it is still important to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

References

  1. Michel Erlewyn-Lajeunesse, Linda P Hunt, Paul T Heath, Adam Finn. Anaphylaxis as an adverse event following immunisation in the UK and Ireland. Arch Dis Child 2012;97:487–490. doi:10.1136/archdischild-488 2011-301163
  2. Department of Health. Immunisation against infectious disease. Chapter 22 Meningococcal. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/meningococcal-the-green-book-chapter-22 (accessed April 2014).
  3. Offit PA, Offit PA, Quarles J, Gerber MA, Hackett CJ, Marcuse EK, Kollman TR, Gellin BG, Landry S. Addressing parents' concerns: Do multiple vaccines overwhelm or weaken the infant's immune system? Pediatrics Jan 2002;109(1):124-9. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/109/1/124 (accessed 17 May 2007)