Meningococcal C vaccine
What is it for?
The meningococcal C vaccine prevents people from becoming infected with a particular type of bacterium called Neisseria meningitides serogroup C (or meningococcus C).
These bacteria can be found in the nose, throat and windpipe (i.e. the upper respiratory tract) of many healthy people, and are not easily spread, but can occasionally be spread in infected droplets in the air particularly where there is crowding and close contact (e.g. in boarding schools or university residential colleges).
The disease can cause:
- meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord)
- pneumonia (lung infection)
- septicaemia (blood infection)
- conjunctivitis (eye infection)
Who should be vaccinated?
The two age groups that are at highest risk of infection are:
- children under 5 years old
- young adults aged 15 to 24 years old.
Babies aged 6 weeks to 12 months of age who have a weakened immune system (e.g. due to a medical condition, no spleen, certain medicines) are at high risk of meningococcal disease and may need to be vaccinated before they are 12 months old.
Young adults aged 15 to 24 years
The vaccine is recommended for young adults in this age group who have not been vaccinated.
Other at risk groups
A meningococcal C-containing vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 weeks and older who has not previously been vaccinated and who is in close contact with someone with meningococcal C infection (e.g. family members).
The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for people who:
- have no spleen or who have spleen problems
- have a weakened immune system (e.g. due to a medical condition or certain medicines)
- who work in a laboratory with the N. meningitides bacteria
- are travelling to countries where meningococcal disease is present (e.g. pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia)
Adults who need to be vaccinated can do so at their own cost.
If you have meningococcal disease, your doctor must report the infection. A Public Health Unit will contact you to provide help and advice. The unit will also need to contact anyone else who may have been exposed to your infection, so that they can also get help and advice.
The vaccine can be given to pregnant women who are at increased risk of meningococcal infection (e.g. women who have no spleen or spleen problems).
Read more about what vaccines you can have if you are pregnant.
Women who are breastfeeding
There is no known risk to your baby if you are vaccinated with the meningococcal C vaccine while you are breastfeeding.
Women who are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine except the yellow fever vaccine.
Common side effects that may affect 1 to 10 in every 100 people include:
- fever (i.e. a temperature of 38.5°C or higher)
- soreness, pain and redness at the injection site
- nodule at injection site (this disappears after a few weeks without treatment)
- loss of appetite
- headache (usually in teenagers or adults).
Children may cry and be irritable or generally unhappy.
Read more about vaccine side effects and safety.
Who can I ask about side effects?
If you’re concerned that you or your child may have had side effects related to a vaccine, seek medical advice. To report and discuss possible side effects, call the Adverse Medicines Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm AEST).
- Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, January 2013.
- Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Office of Health Protection. 4.10 Meningococcal disease. In: The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th edn. www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-4-10