Meningitis is an infection of the protective tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Viral meningitis is an infection caused by viruses and bacterial meningitis is an infection caused by bacteria. Bacterial meningitis, such as Meningococcal Meningitis and Meningococcemia, are rare but serious infections caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitides.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Rash
  • Feeling unwell

The bacteria spread from person to person by direct saliva contact. Both Meningococcal Meningitis and Meningococcemia are treated with antibiotics.

Meningococcal Vaccine

Vaccines are available that protect against some strains of Meningococcal bacteria.

The Meningococcal vaccine is available for free to all Grade 7 students in Ontario. Public Health offers this vaccine in elementary schools across Waterloo Region.

Meningococcal vaccines protect against Meningococcal types A, C, Y, and W-135. The Meningococcal vaccine is a mandatory vaccine for school attendance in Waterloo Region under the Immunization of School Pupils Act.

Children who have received Meningococcal Type C vaccine  still require vaccination with the Meningococcal Type ACYW-135 vaccine in Grade 7.

Who is at risk for Meningococcal disease?

Although anyone can get infected with Meningococcal disease, it is most common in children under five, adolescents, and young adults, especially those living in dormitories. In Canada, most outbreaks have occurred in high schools, universities, and colleges.

How can I protect myself from getting Meningococcal disease?

  • Avoid sharing items that have come in contact with another person’s mouth.
  • Use good hand washing techniques and use your sleeve or elbow to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Get immunized. The provincial government is funding Meningococcal A, C, Y, and W 135 vaccine to all students at no cost in grades 7 to 12.

Are there side effects from the Meningococcal vaccine?

  • The risk of the vaccine causing serious harm is minimal.
  • All the components of the vaccine have been found to be very safe.
  • Common side effects are soreness and redness at the site of the injection, and a mild fever for one to two days.
  • Most severe side effects such as high fever, trouble breathing, hives, and convulsions are extremely rare.
  • If serious side effects occur, see your healthcare provider right away or go directly to the hospital.

Who should not get the Meningococcal A, C, Y, and W 135 vaccine?

Individuals who:

  • Have a fever or anything more serious than a minor cold should delay the vaccine until well.
  • Have a known allergy to any part of the vaccine used, diphtheria toxoid, or latex (in the vial stopper).
  • Have been immunized within the last six months with other vaccines for Meningococcal disease.
  • Are on high dose corticosteroids or immunosuppressive agents, or who have immunosuppressive illness should delay vaccination until condition/treatment has resolved wherever possible. Consult your health care provider.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their healthcare provider.

Grade 7 school clinics

To see when Public Health will be at your child’s school for Grade 7 Immunization Clinics, please view the 2023-2024 School Vaccination Schedule.

If you are unable to attend a community clinic, contact your healthcare provider.

You may decide because of medical, religious, or philosophical reasons not to immunize your child. Contact the Region of Waterloo Public Health if an exemption form is needed.

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