Meningitis C Vaccine only ‘Lasts’ 2 years and is Not Effective in Children Under 2 Years old

Context  An outbreak of meningococcal disease in Quebec province prompted a mass immunization program. The impact of this campaign on the epidemiology of meningococcal disease has not been studied.

Objectives  To study the impact of a mass immunization campaign using polysaccharide vaccine on the epidemiology of meningococcal disease (MCD) and to assess serogroup C vaccine effectiveness (VE).

Design, Setting, and Subjects  Analysis of MCD cases reported in Quebec from 1990 to 1998, before and after the mass immunization campaign was conducted during the winter of 1992-1993, when 84% of residents aged 6 months to 20 years (the target population, approximately 1.9 million individuals) were vaccinated.

Main Outcome Measures  Incidence of MCD in 1990-1998; incidence of culture-proven serogroup C MCD between April 1, 1993, and March 31, 1998, compared among vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in the target population.

Results  The incidence of serogroup C disease decreased after the mass immunization campaign, from 1.4 per 100 000 in 1990-1992 to 0.3 per 100 000 in 1993-1998, and the overall incidence of other serogroups remained stable at 0.7 per 100 000, with a small increase in the proportion of cases caused by serogroup Y (P = .009). Protection from serogroup C MCD was indicated in the first 2 years after vaccine administration (VE, 65%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 20%-84%), but not in the next 3 years (VE, 0%; 95% CI, −5% to 65%). Vaccine effectiveness was strongly related to age at vaccination: 83% (95% CI, 39%-96%) for ages 15 through 20 years, 75% (95% CI, − 17% to 93%) for ages 10 through 14 years, and 41% (95% CI, −106% to 79%) for ages 2 through 9 years. There was no evidence of protection in children younger than 2 years; all 8 MCD cases in this age group occurred in vaccinees.

Conclusions  Serogroup C polysaccharide vaccine is effective for controlling outbreaks in teenaged individuals but should not be used in children younger than 2 years. The mass campaign did not induce significant serogroup switching.

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