Meningococcal Disease and the Vaccine

What is Meningococcal Disease?

  • It is a disease caused by a bacteria that many people carry in their throat or nose without feeling sick.
  • It is spread through close, direct contact. Examples are kissing, coughing or sharing things like food, drinks, and musical instruments.
  • People become sick when the bacteria gets into the blood and other body fluids.
  • This can lead to brain swelling, brain damage and sometimes death in just a few hours.

What is in the vaccine?

Vaccine Contents

Where else are they found?

Parts of meningococcal bacteria

Meningococcal bacteria

Diptheria toxoid

Other childhood vaccines

Sodium chloride

Human body, salt

Sodium phosphate


What is the Benefit of Getting This Vaccine?

  • The grade 7 Menactra®vaccine protects against four types of the bacteria that cause Meningococcal Disease.

Is the Vaccine Safe?

  •  Yes!
  • Meningococcal C-ACWY (Menactra®, Menveo®, Niminrix®) has been in use in Ottawa Public Health immunization clinics since 2007.
  • In 2016, only 2 serious reactions to Meningococcal C-ACWY occurred in all of Ontario out of ~ 183,000 doses given (Vaccine Safety Surveillance Technical Data Notes 2017).
  • You cannot get meningococcal disease from the vaccine

What are the side effects from the Menactra® vaccine?

Most Common

Less Common

Very Rare

and Serious

Redness, pain

and/or swelling

at the site,

especially during

the first 24 hours

Muscle aches,


and/or slight


Serious allergic reaction causing trouble


swelling of the

face or mouth,


Treatment: Apply ice to the area where you got the vaccine

and/or take acetaminophen (e.g.



Clinic nurses

are trained to

treat severe

side effects

How can I protect myself from Meningococcal Disease?

  • Get the vaccine.
  • A dose of Meningococcal C-ACWY is recommended for all teens on or after 12 years of age even if the child has already received a previous dose of Meningococcal C-ACWY vaccine (Menactra®, Menveo®, Niminrix®).
  • Do not share food, drinks, or utensils.
  • Do not share lipstick or toothbrushes.
  • Do not share cigarettes.

Compare the risks - the disease or the vaccine?

Disease Risk

Vaccine Risk


Swelling of the brain (meningitis) causing hearing loss, stroke or


Sore arm: 6 in 10 people

Headache or feeling tired : up to 6 in 10 people

Blood infection causing shock and organ failure

Other infections of the lungs, joints, bones, heart and skin

Death - 1 in 10 severe cases

Serious reactions are very rare


I already had a meningococcal vaccine

  • You may have already received a meningococcal vaccine (e.g.  Men. C or Menjugate®) for infants that protects against one type of the bacteria.
  • MenC-ACWY vaccine protects 80% to 85% of teens against disease caused by four types of bacteria.
  • If you are unsure whether you are properly protected against meningococcal disease call Ottawa Public Health 613-580-6744 to speak to a nurse.

How can I prepare for the vaccine?

  • Talk to your parent or guardian about the vaccine.
  • Learn ways to deal with your worry about the vaccination (focus on breathing, look away from needle, count to ten, etc.).
  • Wear a short sleeve shirt.
  • Eat breakfast and have an extra juice or small snack to avoid fainting (common with growing teens)

You must have received one dose of this vaccine to attend school. If you choose not to be immunized, your parent or guardian must contact Ottawa Public Health.

Do you have more questions?

Contact Us