Meningococcal C (MenC) Vaccine
Number of deaths from Group C Meningococcal disease in under 18s in the UK before and after introduction of the vaccine
|mid-1998 to mid-1999||mid-2011 to mid-2012|
Source: Public Health England
This vaccine gives protection against meningococcal disease (a major cause of meningitis) caused by group C Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
In the UK, it is given to babies aged 3 months. A MenC booster is given at 12-13 months in a combination vaccine which also protects against Hib disease (see Hib/MenC booster).
Until summer 2015 a MenC booster was offered to teenagers at the same time as the Teenage booster vaccine, and also to student freshers. This is now being replaced by the MenACWY vaccine for both these groups.
The MenC vaccine is inactivated, and cannot cause the disease itself.
It is a conjugate vaccine. This means that sugars (polysaccharides) from the surface of the bacteria are joined to a protein (a non-toxic protein from tetanus). This is done because the sugars alone do not produce a good immune response in infants and children.
It contains a small amount of aluminium which strengthens and lengthens the immune response to the vaccine. This is not a cause for concern. See more information on aluminium in vaccines.
It also contains a small amount of sodium chloride (salt).
The MenC vaccine used in the UK does not contain the preservative thiomersal (mercury).
The following reactions are common but not serious:
- redness, tenderness and/or swelling at the injection site
- slightly raised temperature
- loss of appetite
- problems with sleeping
Many of these symptoms can be relieved by giving paracetamol (Calpol)if your child is over 2 months, or ibuprofen if your child is over 3 months and weighs more than 5kg (see NHS Choices for more advice on giving painkillers to babies and children).
More serious side effects are very rare:
- high temperatures, sometimes leading to fits (also called convulsions or febrile seizures)
- fainting, numbness and limpness (hypotonia)
You should consult your doctor if these reactions happen after vaccination. This is mainly to check that it is the vaccine causing the symptoms, and not some unrelated disease. Symptoms such as fits can be very worrying for parents, but there is no evidence of long-term effects. Children can normally safely receive vaccines in the future.
As with any vaccine, medicine or food, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is different from less severe allergic reactions because it causes life-threatening breathing and/or circulation problems. It is always serious but can be treated with adrenaline. In the UK between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 130 reports of anaphylaxis following ALL immunisations, but all of these people survived. Around 117 million doses of vaccines were given in the UK during this period, making the overall rate around 1 in 900,000. Depending on the cause of the reaction, and following expert guidance, the person may be able to have vaccinations in the future.
Reactions listed under ‘possible side effects’ or ‘adverse events’ on vaccine product information sheets may not all be directly linked to the vaccine. See Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions for more information on why this is the case.
See more information on the monitoring of vaccine safety.
There have been a number of changes to the schedule for the MenC vaccine in the last few years. A teenage MenC booster was introduced in 2013, and a booster for student freshers in 2014. Both of these were replaced by the MenACWY vaccine in 2015.
Following introduction of the MenC vaccine in 1999, the number of cases of meningococcal disease caused by group C bacteria fell by over 90% in vaccinated groups.
Published by Sarah Loving
Medical content reviewed by Professor Andrew Pollard
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Last updated 05 January 2016