Michelle Greiver, M.D., C.C.F.P.
Family Physician
240 Duncan Mill road, suite 705
Toronto, Ontario M3B 3S6
Phone (416) 222-3011
Fax (416) 221-3097
Email  mgreiver@rogers.com
 http://drgreiver.com

March 3, 2006

New Vaccines for Babies and Children

Two new vaccines have recently been introduced, Menjugate and Prevnar. 

 Menjugate

Menjugate is a new vaccine for meningitis.  Meningitis means an infection of the lining covering the brain.  It can cause death or permanent complications, such as deafness; it is often treated with antibiotics.  There are several bacteria and viruses that can cause meningitis, and this vaccine works for illness caused by a bacteria called Group C Meningococcus. 

The number of children under the age of 5 who will get meningitis due to Group C meningococcus is between 1 and 3 children for every 100,000 children, every year.  About one in ten children who get this disease will die; about 1 child in 50 will be deaf.  The vaccine would prevent most, but not all cases.  This type of meningitis is very rare, so most children who are vaccinated will not benefit, but it can be very serious, so that children who would have been very ill will benefit.

The vaccine is given in 3 injections, starting from the age of 2 months, at least a month apart.  If you start vaccinating between the ages of 4 months and 11 months, 2 shots are required, at least a month apart; after the age of one year, a single shot is given.  The Ontario Government currently covers this shot for babies age1.  If you choose to vaccinate earlier, you can buy the vaccine privately; each shot costs about $90.  We are not sure if it is worthwhile to give the vaccine after the age of 5, as the illness is so rare then.  It is probably a good idea for teens, between the ages of 15 and 19, as they are at higher risk of this type of meningitis.  The Ontario Government currently covers this shot for children age 12, and for teens age 15 to 19.

We do not know if the vaccine is life-long, or whether a booster shot will be needed later on. 

The side effects are: possible pain, redness and swelling where the vaccine is injected.  Sometimes there is irritability or fever.

 

Prevnar

Prevnar is a new vaccine that protects against some strains of Pneumococcus.  Pneumococcus is a bacteria that can cause meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.  Serious pneumococcal infection happens in about 108 children under the age of two per 100,000 children each year.  The vaccine is recommended for children under the age of two; children between the ages of two and five who are at risk, because they have sickle cell disease, no spleen, or some other conditions, can also benefit from the vaccine.

The vaccine is effective for preventing meningitis and pneumonia due to some strains of Pneumococcus.  It is not very effective for ear infections.  It decreases the risk of meningitis by over 90%.  It decreases the risk of any pneumonia by 11%, and the risk of severe pneumonia by 73%.

The risk of meningitis due to Pneumococcus is 1 to 2 cases per 100,000 children per year, similar to Meningococcus.  About 85% of these cases are due to types of Pneumococcus for which the vaccine provides protection.  20% of children who get this disease will suffer permanent problems, such as deafness. 

Prevnar is given in 3 doses, at least 4 weeks apart, from the age of 2 months; if you start between 6 months and a year, only 2 doses are needed.  A booster shot is given between a year and 18 months of age.  The Ontario Government currently covers the shots for children under the age of 2, and for high risk children age 2 to 5.

Possible side effects are redness, pain, swelling where the vaccine is injected; fever, irritability, sleeplessness or drowsiness and decreased appetite.  Side effects are more common if Prevnar is given with the regular vaccine.  

More information on both vaccines can be found at http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/program/immun/immunization.html

 If you have any other questions, please ask me.

 Michelle Greiver MD, CCFP