Menactra is a vaccine that is used to prevent infections caused by meningococcal bacteria. It works by exposing the body to a small dose of the bacteria, in turn building up immunity to the disease. Menactra can be used as early as nine months old up to 55 years old. Meningitis, which Menactra works to prevent, is a serious infection that can affect the blood, spinal cord and brain, and can prove fatal. Meningitis can be spread through small amounts of saliva or touch. The FDA approved Menactra in 2005 and reports that more than 2.5 million doses of the drug have been administered in the United States.

In the same year it was approved, Menactra began to be linked to some serious side effects. It has been linked to Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), which is a neurological disorder affecting the arms and legs.

In 2005, the FDA had reports of 15 different cases of GBS, where the patients had been administered the Menactra vaccine. At least five of these cases were in young adults and teenagers. GBS can cause weakness in the limbs that could result in paralysis or death in extreme cases. Most patients reported that they felt the symptoms nearly four weeks after receiving the vaccine.

Serious side effects may include:

  • Severe weakness or unusual feeling in your arms and legs (may occur 2 to 4 weeks after you receive the vaccine)
  • High fever
  • Unusual bleeding

Less serious Menactra side effects may include:

  • Low fever
  • Redness, pain, swelling, or a lump where the vaccine was injected
  • Headache, tired feeling
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Fussiness, irritability, crying for an hour or longer
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