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 meningococcal groups A, C, Y, and W-135 bacteria. 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 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.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
The vaccine when reconstituted is a clear colourless liquid. Each dose (0.5 mL) contains N. meningitidis group-specific polysaccharide antigens (A, C, Y, and W-135) 50 µg, thimerosal (mercury derivative) 1:10,000 (for multidose presentation only), sodium chloride, lactose, and water for injection.
How should I use this medication?
For children 3 to 23 months of age at risk of infection, the usual dosing schedule is 2 doses of 0.5 mL injected subcutaneously (under the skin) 2 to 3 months apart. The use of this vaccine in this age group occurs only under special circumstances.
For adults and children 2 years of age and older, the meningococcal vaccine is injected as a single dose of 0.5 mL.
This medication should be stored in the refrigerator. Do not allow it to freeze. Keep it out of the reach of children.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.
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 use meningococcal vaccine if you:
- are allergic to meningococcal vaccine, any ingredients of the vaccine, or any of the components of the vaccine container
- have a fever or a serious illness
- have a history of a neurological disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
- have had a life-threatening reaction after receiving a vaccine with similar ingredients
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.
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
- pain, redness, swelling, or hardening at the place of injection
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:
- feeling unwell
- weakness; tingling; or numbness in the legs, arms, or upper body
Stop taking the medication and 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 these conditions, discuss the risks 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.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS): Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder, has been rarely reported after this vaccine is given. If you have Guillain-Barre Syndrome, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. If you experience any weakness or tingling in the legs, arms, or upper body, contact your doctor.
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).
Latex allergy: The vial stoppers may contain latex. People with latex allergy should be monitored by their doctor after they receive this vaccine. The syringes do not contain latex.
Protection: This vaccine can only protect against the types of bacteria specific to this vaccine and, as with other vaccines, may not provide 100% protection for everyone who receives the vaccine.
Pregnancy: This vaccine should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. If you discover you were pregnant when you received this vaccine, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if meningococcal vaccine passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are given this vaccine, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding or wait until you have stopped breast-feeding to receive the vaccine.
Children: This safety and effectiveness of meningococcal vaccines have been established for children of varying ages, depending on the vaccine product and the conditions for which the vaccine is needed.
Seniors: The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine in people over the age of 55 have not been established.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between meningococcal vaccine and any of the following:
- corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fluticasone, prednisone)
- medications to treat cancer (e.g., carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, ifosfamide, vincristine)
- other vaccines
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 that you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or illegal drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.