Menactra vaccines are intended to prevent a person from developing meningitis. It is also intended to prevent other related conditions, such as meningococcal sepsis. The vaccine is typically administered to people as young as 9 months old up to those who are 55 years old.
In recent years, Menactra vaccines have been subject to legal scrutiny, especially those manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, because of the possibility that they cause Guillain-Barre syndrome.
What Is Meningococcal Disease?
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can infect the spinal cord and brain and cause meningitis. This bacterial infection can be fatal or lead to permanent and disabling health issues. Bacterial meningitis affects approximately 1 in 100,000 people every year. The infection can be life-threatening, and 10 to 14% of cases are fatal. Among those who survive, 11 to 19% can have a permanent disability.
Meningococcal disease is more likely to occur in the following groups:
- In infants younger than 1-year-old;
- In young people between the ages of 16 and 23 years old;
- In people who have compromised immune systems;
- In people who do not have a functioning spleen, and
- In any person who is exposed to an outbreak of the disease.
Many colleges require the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which Menactra is before students report to their dorms in their freshman year because this is often where meningitis outbreaks can occur.
Are There Any Dangerous Side Effects Associated with Menactra?
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Menactra for public use in 2005. Shortly after approval, some people reported experiencing Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) after being vaccinated with Menactra.
In one cluster of cases, five patients, all 17 or 18 years old or in a group at high risk of developing bacterial meningitis, reported developing weakness or abnormal sensations in their extremities within a few weeks after vaccination. The five affected young people were living in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
However, over 2.5 million had received the Menactra vaccine, and the rate of GBS, given the large number of vaccinations administered, is comparable to what might be expected to happen by coincidence, i.e., without vaccination. Still, the fact that the Guillain-Barre-type symptoms happened so soon after vaccine administration has raised concerns.
Research was performed to evaluate any possible relationship between Menactra and GBS, and the risk of developing GBS after Menactra was found to be small.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain–Barre syndrome is an illness that causes muscle weakness because the body’s immune system attacks its own peripheral nervous system. In most cases, both sides of a person’s body are involved.
The first symptoms are changes in sensation or pain in the back and muscle weakness. The weakness begins in the hands and feet and then spreads to the arms and the upper body. The symptoms may develop in a few hours or take weeks to show themselves.
In the acute phase of the illness, it can be life-threatening. About 15% of sufferers experience weakness in the breathing muscles, which requires mechanical ventilation. Some are affected by changes in the function of the autonomic nervous system, which can lead to dangerous abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure.
The exact cause is unknown to science, but it is a kind of autoimmune disorder, as mentioned above. A body’s immune system attacks and damages the myelin insulation of the peripheral nerves. It can be triggered by an infection, surgery, and, rarely, by vaccination.
Most people afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrome can recover if given prompt treatment in a hospital setting and supportive care, even with severe weakness. However, recovery can take weeks to years, and a third of victims have some degree of permanent weakness. Globally, the illness is fatal for 7.5 % of the victims.
The good news is that Guillain–Barre syndrome is rare; there are only about 1 or 2 cases per 100,000 people every year. The rates of contracting the illness are the same for all populations worldwide.
Other less significant side effects can include the following:
- Fever of as high as 105 degrees;
- Brief fainting, which can cause falls;
- Unusual bleeding.
In infants, side effects can include:
- Loss of appetite;
Side effects may also be serious in someone who shows hypersensitivity or severe allergic reaction to the product. A side effect can lead to injuries or conditions that may be long-lasting or permanent.
What if I Have Been Injured Due to a Menactra Vaccine?
A person who has suffered significant injuries from being vaccinated with Menactra may be able to file a legal claim under various legal theories, depending on the facts and circumstances of their particular case. These may include laws that govern:
- Strict Product Liability: This area of the law makes manufacturers and distributors of defective products liable for the harm the defects cause to product users. The defect may be in the design or formulation of the product, the manufacturing of it, or the labeling of the product;
- Medical malpractice: This is an action for negligence against a medical professional alleging that the care they provided fell below the standard of care they owed their patient;
- Pharmacy error: Pharmacy error is a case of malpractice by a pharmacist.
Claims based on any one of these areas of the law can lead to an award of compensatory damages to the victim. It would reimburse all of the economic losses caused by their injuries. These would include all the costs of necessary medical care they must receive to treat their injuries, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
Can I Recover for My Injuries from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
Another option is the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). This is a federal fund that compensates people whose vaccines have injured them. The VICP has the added advantage of protecting pharmaceutical manufacturers from lawsuits, which helps keep the supply of vaccines coming.
The VICP is legally authorized to award a maximum of $250,000 for each meningitis vaccine injury claim. If a person has suffered a meningitis vaccine side effect, they might be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, decreased quality of life, pain and suffering, legal expenses, and more.
Not all injury claims win an award of compensation despite meningitis vaccine injury claims having a high compensation rate from the VICP. The court that decides claims must be persuaded that there is a high probability that the vaccine caused a person’s injury.
Before a person can submit a claim for injury caused by the meningitis vaccine, the person must meet the following criteria:
- The meningitis vaccine must have harmed them, their child, or their family member. The legal guardians of disabled adults or children may be able to file a vaccine injury claim;
- The VICP only accepts serious injuries caused by the meningitis vaccine. So, the person must have suffered disability, death, a condition that lasted for at least 6 months, or a condition that required hospitalization or surgery;
- A person must file their claim within 2 years of death, 3 years for an injury, and 4 years for an injury that eventually caused death.
Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for My Menactra Vaccine Injuries?
Menactra vaccines have been known to result in at least one serious side effect and, in some cases, serious injuries. If you have suffered a serious side effect after being vaccinated with Menactra, consult a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine which option for recovery is best in light of your situation.