How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

This medication belongs to the family of medications known as vaccines. It is used to prevent infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, and blood infections caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis groups A, C, Y, and W-135. It works by stimulating the production of antibodies (substances produced by the immune system designed to attack that particular bacteria). These antibodies remain in the body, ready to attack these bacteria, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

It is given to people who are 12 months to 55 years of age. It starts to work several days to a few weeks after the vaccine is given.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

This product is supplied as a sterile lyophilized white powder in a single dose vial that contains Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A polysaccharide, 5 micrograms; Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C polysaccharide, 5 micrograms; Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W-135 polysaccharide, 5 micrograms; Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y polysaccharide, 5 micrograms, conjugated to tetanus toxoid carrier protein of 44 micrograms. Nonmedicinal ingredients: powder: sucrose, trometamol; diluents: sodium chloride, water for injection.

After reconsititution, each 0.5 mL dose of meningococcal vaccine is a clear, colourless solution.

How should I use this medication?

For adults and children 12 months to 55 years of age, meningococcal vaccine is injected as a single dose of 0.5 mL into a muscle (preferably in the upper, outer arm) by a qualified health care professional. Children between 12 and 24 months of age may be given this injection into the thigh muscle.

This medication should be stored in the refrigerator. Do not allow it to freeze. The diluents may be stored at room temperature. Keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to meningococcal vaccine or any ingredients of the medication.

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • dizziness
  • feeling unwell
  • weakness; tingling; or numbness in the legs, arms, or upper body

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (shortness of breath; wheezing; trouble breathing; hives; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Bleeding problems: There is a risk of increased bleeding or bruising when any intramuscular injection is given to a person who has a bleeding disorder or is taking medications to thin the blood. The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine have not been established for people with thrombocytopenia (low platelets) or bleeding disorders. If you have any of these conditions, discuss the risk and benefits of this vaccine with your doctor.

Fever: A doctor may decide to delay this vaccine if the person receiving the vaccine has an acute infection or fever. Mild infections without fever, such as colds, usually do not require delay of the vaccine.

Immune problems: When used for people with impaired immune systems, meningococcal vaccines may not create enough of an antibody response to protect against infections caused by these bacteria. Also, this vaccine may not be effective for people receiving immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., some medications used to treat cancer or for transplant recipients).

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you are or may be pregnant, discuss the risks and benefits of receiving this vaccine.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if meningococcal vaccine passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children under 12 months of age.

Seniors: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for adults over 55 years of age.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between meningococcal vaccine and any of the following:

  • acetaminophen
  • immunosuppressants
    • azathioprine
    • corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fluticasone, prednisone)
    • cyclosporine
    • fingolimod
    • hydroxyurea
    • infliximab
    • medications to treat cancer (e.g., carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, ifosfamide, vincristine)
    • rituximab
    • tacrolimus

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.