Preventing Meningitis in Teenagers

Pediatrician in Meridian Idaho

Why does my kid need this vaccine?

At Thrive Pediatrics we recommend our patients receive the Menactra vaccine at age 11 with a booster shot at age 16. Why is this specific vaccine important you might ask? There are three main reasons:

  1. The illnesses we are seeking to prevent are quite awful with a high rate of mortality or disability
  2. 1 in 10 people are carriers for the illness
  3. The vaccine is 85% effective in adolescents

What kind of illnesses are we talking about?

Neisseria Meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause infections, most commonly meningitis and septicemia. When it leads to meningitis, the bacteria infect the lining of the brain and the spinal cord. When it leads to septicemia, the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, damaging the walls of the blood vessels and causes bleeding into the skin and organs. These are terrible diseases that lead to death in 10 to 15% of those that become infected. Of those that survive, 20% can be left with a long-term disability such as:

  • Loss of limb(s)
  • Deafness
  • Nervous system problems
  • Brain damage

How common is this disease?

Again, about 1 in 10 people carry the bacteria, Neisseria Meningitidis, in the back of their nose and throat without ever becoming ill. Even with that number being as high as it is, we have seen a large decrease in cases and outbreaks in the US since the 1990s. Much like with other terrible diseases such as Polio and Measles, vaccines have played a large role in bringing the rate of infection to a fraction of what it once was.

 

 

What kind of vaccine do we use?

We use Menactra (MenACWY-DT). As stated above, we encourage the first of 2 vaccines at age 11 with the booster being administered at age 16. The reason for the booster is to increase the effectiveness at a pivotal age. As you can see by the graph, by age 16 the risk increases by quite a bit. The effectiveness, as also stated above, is 85% and so it is still possible to contract the disease. While it is not perfect or 100%, it is certainly effective enough to make a large difference.

 

In closing…

At Thrive we believe it is very important to ask questions and be informed about the vaccines that your provider is prescribing. We hope to provide our patients and their families with the best information possible to help in making decisions about your child’s care. You can find this information and much more related to meningitis and everything else we touched on in this article by visiting the CDC’s website page for Meningococcal Diseases.

We are Thrive Pediatrics, caring for Idaho’s future today.

*Graphs sourced from CDC.gov