This leaflet is about protecting against the germ (bacterium) called group C Neisseria meningitidis, also known as group C meningococcus. Infection with this germ can cause meningitis and septicaemia (serious blood infection). All people under 25 should be immunised and it is now a routine part of the childhood immunisation programme.
The meningococcus is a germ (bacterium) that can cause meningitis and blood infection (septicaemia). It can also cause other infections - for example, pneumonia, eye infection (conjunctivitis) and inflammation of the heart (myocarditis). Some of these infections are very serious and can be fatal if not treated quickly. There are different groups (strains or types) of meningococcal bacteria:
Infection with the meningococcus can affect anyone, but those most at risk are children aged under 5 years (especially babies under a year), teenagers and young adults under the age of 25.
A vaccine to protect against the group C meningococcus (MenC vaccine) was launched in 1999. This vaccine protects against group C only and not against group A or B meningococcus. (See separate leaflet called Meningococcal Immunisation for details of other vaccines against other groups of meningitis, which are used for travellers to at-risk countries.) The MenC vaccine is thought to give lifelong immunity, so booster doses later in life are not needed.
Babies are given the MenC vaccine as part of the routine immunisation programme. Three doses (injections) of vaccine are needed for full protection. These are normally given at ages 3 months, between 12 and 13 months and as a booster aged around 14 years. The first dose is usually given at the same time as the routine DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine (as a separate injection). (DTaP/IPV/Hib stands for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough)/polio/Haemophilus influenzae type b.) The second dose is a combined injection with the Hib vaccine (Hib/MenC). The booster will be given alone.
Three doses are needed to be given to make sure your child develops a really good immune response to protect them against this disease.
Older children, teenagers, and young adults under the age of 25 were offered immunisation in a catch-up programme after the immunisation was introduced in 1999. Most are now immunised. However, if you are under 25 and have not been immunised, see your practice nurse to get immunised. Just one injection of vaccine is needed for those over the age of one year. Once all people under the age of 25 are immunised, only the routine immunisations for new babies will need to continue.
People who do not have a spleen or whose spleen does not work properly also need to receive a meningitis vaccine.
Close contacts of people with meningitis or septicaemia caused by group C meningococcus may be offered the vaccine if they have not been previously immunised. They are also likely to be given a short course of antibiotics.
Most people have no side-effects. Sometimes a mild high temperature (fever) develops for a short time. Some babies cry more and become irritable for a short time after the injection. Occasionally, they may have vomiting or diarrhoea. Slight swelling, pain and redness at the injection site may occur. Headache and muscle aches for a short time can occur in some older children.
None of the above side-effects is serious, and they soon settle. If necessary, you can give paracetamol or ibuprofen to children to ease pain and fever following immunisation. Serious reactions are rare.
The vaccine is safe if you are breast-feeding.
Yes. However, this vaccine has greatly reduced the number of cases of meningitis and blood infection (septicaemia) since it was introduced in 1999.
Note: other groups of meningococcus, and other germs (bacteria) can still cause meningitis.
You should get medical help immediately if you suspect that your child, or someone you know, has meningitis or septicaemia. The earlier the treatment of meningitis or septicaemia, the better the chance of recovery and preventing complications or death. See separate leaflets called Meningitis and Septicaemia and Meningitis Symptoms Checklist for more details about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.