Two prominent meningitis awareness and support organizations are promoting the use of the meningitis B vaccines on all children (middle school through college freshman) as the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meets June 24.

Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström
Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

The National Meningitis Association (NMA) hopes that serogroup B meningococcal disease vaccines will be recommended for all adolescents .

At Meningitis Angels, founder Frankie Milley said, “It is tragic about the continuing preventable meningococcal outbreaks. Meningitis does not stop at the dorm room door.”

Since 2005, the CDC has recommended vaccination to protect against strains A, C, W and Y, at age 11-12 with a booster dose at age 16. However many parents do not realize that their child is not protected against serogroup B, which is not included in the recommended vaccine. Serogroup B is currently the most common cause of meningococcal disease in our nation’s adolescents and young adults. Overall, it accounts for one third of U.S. meningococcal disease cases.

Serogroup B caused recent meningitis outbreaks on college campuses at the University of Oregon, Providence College, Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2015 alone, cases also occurred at Yale University, University of Missouri and University of California, Davis.

Meningococcal B, like serogroups A, C, Y, and  W135, progresses quickly and can cause brain damage, hearing loss, vision loss, severe seizure disorders, mental illness, limb loss and death in as little as 48 hours. It is a contagious disease that spreads in places where people/families live/gather in close quarters, share drinks such as bars and athletic events, food, cigarettes and have close intimate contact such as kissing.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two vaccines, Trumenba and Bexsero, to protect against serogroup B disease.

The NMA says if ACIP were to routinely recommend serogroup B vaccination for adolescents who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, it would be a significant step forward in protecting them from this terrible disease.

David Berman, DO MS FAAP FPIDS with the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases
All Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine said, “Let’s make the right decision and protect adolescents against this deadly disease. How many more outbreaks will we need to make a routine recommendation?”

Related: AMA calls on states to make it harder to get immunization exemption