- Meningococcal disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides.
- Many people carry this bacteria in their nose and throat and it causes no problems.
- Serogroup B and C are the most common infecting strains in Ireland at present.
- Death from meningococcal disease is relatively rare with an average of six deaths per year since 2001 and an average of fourteen deaths per year in the decade before the vaccine, across all age groups.
Health Freedom Ireland (HFI) encourages you to become fully informed about vaccines and the associated illnesses so that you can give informed consent if you choose to vaccinate yourself or your child(ren). This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. HFI is simply bringing this information to you – we neither recommend nor advise against vaccination.
Does the HSE recommend a vaccine for meningococcal disease?
Five doses are recommended before 13 months of age targeting two out of the thirteen meningococcal serotypes. Each of the vaccines outlined below is covered in detail in the linked Health Freedom Ireland documents (including risks, benefits, ingredients and studies).
- Bexsero targets meningococcal B and is recommended at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.
- Menjugate targets meningococcal C and is recommended at 6 months of age.
- Menitorix targets meningococcal C and is recommended at 13 months of age.
As of 23rd September, 2023, there were 149,295 adverse events reported on the World Health Organisation VigiAccess database for meningococcal vaccines including Bexsero (men B), and Menjugate (men C), and 2,131 for hib/meningococcal vaccine including Menitorix (men C).
Does the meningococcal vaccine guarantee protection?
No your baby can still get meningococcal disease after vaccination. These vaccines include 2 of the 13 serotypes/strains of meningococcal disease.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the UK have recommended the withdrawal of the Menitorix vaccine and to end the Men C vaccine in the childhood schedule. There is evidence that the teenage MenACWY vaccination is protecting all age groups so Menitorix is therefore no longer necessary.
What is meningococcal disease?
Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis. There are several different types of the bacterium including groups A, B, C, W135 and Y. Group B and C are the most common forms in Ireland. These bacteria are common and live naturally in the back of the nose and throat. According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), up to one in ten people carry the bacteria. According to this study, it is estimated that 10% – 35% of young adults carry the bacteria in their nose/throat and that most people are colonised with the bacteria at one time or another during their life. Carrying the bacteria harmlessly in the nose is known as carriage and those who carry the bacteria develop immunity to it as can be seen from the following information from the HPSC:
“Carriage is typically followed by the development of immunity. Only a small minority of carriers will develop meningitis or septicaemia after an incubation period of 2-3 days. Why some people develop meningitis and others don’t is not fully known but it is believed that on occasion the bacteria can overcome the body’s immune system and cause meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia.”
Similarly, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) in Ireland say:
“Approximately 10% of the population are asymptomatic nasal or rarely throat carriers, and most develop immunity.”
The medical literature does have some information on why this bacteria that so many carry harmlessly can go on to cause serious illness in a small minority. One paper states:
“Like many other diseases, the immune system plays a very important [role] in protecting the host. Conditions that compromise the human immune system increase the risk of contracting meningococcal disease, including meningococcemia and or meningitis. These diseases include human immunodeficiency (HIV) infection, acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome (AIDS), asplenia, and complement deficiency.”
Meningococcal disease is not easily spread and requires one to be susceptible to the infection and to have regular close contact with a person who is colonising the bacteria. Outbreaks of meningococcal disease are rare, but can occur in settings where people group together, such as college campuses.
In the rare cases where it progresses to invasive meningococcal disease, it can then cause meningitis (swelling in the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning) or both. At first, meningitis symptoms may appear mild and similar to cold or flu symptoms and may include headache, fever, aches, and pains. As the illness progresses, additional symptoms can include skin rash, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, inability to look at bright lights, mental confusion and irritability, extreme fatigue/sleepiness, convulsions, and unconsciousness. In babies, symptoms can include a high-pitched moaning cry, difficulty or refusal to feed, and the fontanel (the soft area on the top of the head) may be bulging. The HPSC advises seeking medical help immediately as the sooner treatment with antibiotics begins the greater the chance the person will make a full recovery.
What is the risk of my child getting meningococcal disease in Ireland?
The risk for all age groups of getting meningococcal B in Ireland between 2011 and 2019 was extremely rare at 1 in 88,295 (0.001%) and 1 in 401,942 (0.0002%) for meningococcal C.
|Meningococcal B & C cases|
|Meningococcal B Cases||84||58||68||69||43||48||29||46||33|
|Meningococcal C Cases||2||0||1||6||11||22||30||20||13|
|average population 2011 – 2019 = 4,689,331 |
average annual risk of getting meningococcal B during this period is 1 in 88,295 (0.001%)
average annual risk of getting meningococcal C during this period is 1 in 401,942 (0.0002%)
The following shows cases of invasive meningococcal disease for serogroup b (SgB), serogroup c (SgC) and other serogroups not covered by the vaccines. While the percentage of serogroup b cases has dropped other serogroups have risen since the introduction of the vaccine for men b.
What is the risk of dying from meningococcal disease in Ireland?
The risk of dying from meningococcal disease in the decade before the vaccine was introduced in 2000 was extremely rare at 1 in 248,848 (0.0004%). The risk of dying during this period for children under 5 was extremely rare at 1 in 612,730 (0.0002%).
|Meningococcal deaths in Ireland|
|Deaths < 5||5||6||8||5||5||8||6||5||Not available||5|
|Average population in Ireland from 1990 to 1999 = 3,608,300|
Average annual risk of dying from meningococcal disease during this period = 1 in 248,848 (0.0004%)
Average annual risk of dying from meningococcal disease during this period (<5s) = 1 in 612,730 (0.0002%)
Meningococcal disease Vs vaccine risk summary
Read the detailed Health Freedom Ireland article on the Bexsero (men b) vaccine which contains the meningococcal B vaccine including risk and ingredients analysis, studies in support of its use and studies highlighting concerns.
|RISK FROM MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE|
|Risk of getting meningococcal B disease in Ireland between 2011 and 2019||Extremely rare: 1 in 88,295 (0.001%)|
|Risk of getting meningococcal C disease in Ireland between 2011 and 2019||Extremely rare:1 in 410,942 (0.0002%)|
|Risk of dying from meningococcal disease before vaccine||Extremely rare: 1 in 248,848 (0.0004%)|
Extremely rare: 1 in 612,730 (0.0002%) Under 5s
|Current risk of dying from any form of meningococcal disease in Ireland between 2001 and 2018||Extremely rare: 1 in 701,013 (0.0001%)|
|RISK FROM MENINGOCOCCAL VACCINE|
see section 4 of patient information leaflet for full list of side effects
**Severe allergic reactions can occur to any vaccine but they are very rare and are usually seen in less than 1 in 10,000 people who are vaccinated
|Bexsero vaccine (men B)|
(3 doses recommended at 2, 4 & 12 months)
|Risk of Kawasaki disease||Frequency unknown (additional side effects once the product launched on market)|
|Menjugate vaccine (men C)|
(1 dose recommended at 6 months)
|Risk of kidney disorder (nephrotic syndrome)||Very rare: <1 per 10,000 doses (0.01%)|
|Menitorix vaccine (men C)|
(1 dose recommended at 13 months)
|Risk of collapse, shock-like state, fainting, convulsions, joint pain||Very rare: <1 in 10,000 doses (0.01%)|
|Risk abdominal pain, sleeplessness, generally feeling unwell||Rare: up to 1 in 1,000 doses (0.1%)|
Join the parents support group to continue the discussion and learn from the experience of others
Health Freedom Ireland:
Health Freedom Ireland Bexsero (men b)
- Health Service Executive (HSE) Meningococcal B and Meningococcal C
- National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) Meningococcal infection
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) Meningococcal disease
- World Health Organisation (WHO) Meningococcal disease
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Meningococcal disease