When my oldest son was in college there was an outbreak of meningitis B on his campus. Initially, I was worried but felt assured that he had been vaccinated as I closely followed his pediatrician’s recommendations and thought he would be fine. However, soon it became clear that he had been vaccinated for a different type of meningitis (groups A, C, W, and Y), and the one that was sickening a few of his classmates was Meningitis B, for which, at that time, there was no vaccination available in the United States. Meningitis B vaccination is available now.1
While the overall risk of contracting meningococcal disease (aka meningitis) is low, teens and young adults are at an increased risk for contracting meningitis because it can spread through certain common behaviors such as living in close quarters like college dormitories, coughing, sneezing, kissing, and sharing drinks, utensils, or smoking devices.2
While meningococcal meningitis is uncommon, It can progress quickly, and can be fatal.2 There is also a risk of long-term consequences such as loss of limbs, brain damage, deafness and nervous system problems.3
After this outbreak, Meningitis B vaccination became available in the US. However, even though MenB vaccination has been available since 2014, recent CDC data show that only about 1 in 5 17-year-olds in the US received at least one dose of MenB vaccination in 2019.4
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that parents discuss meningitis and the vaccine with their physician. Recent online polling by GSK/IPSOS shows that only one in three of the 1500 parents surveyed knew that two different types of vaccines are needed to help protect against meningitis – one for groups A, C, W, Y and one for group B.5 Many parents, as I was, are confused about the two different types of vaccines for meningitis, and so speaking to your child’s physician is the best way for you and your college student to learn more.
As a result of the pandemic, some doctors’ visits were cancelled and teens and young adults may have missed or delayed a visit. It is crucial that our students see their doctor, discuss their vaccination schedule and learn more about the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B – and all CDC-recommended vaccines for teens and young adults.6,7
Visit meningitisb.com for more information.
Vaccination may not protect all recipients.
Information for Healthcare Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/adolescent-vaccine.html. Reviewed July 26, 2019. Accessed November 2020)
1 Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Meningococcal Vaccination for Adolescents:
Information for Healthcare Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/adolescent-vaccine.html. Reviewed July 26, 2019. Accessed November 2020.
2 Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html. Reviewed December 2019. Accessed November 2020.
2 Gary S Marshall, Amanda F Dempsey, Amit Srivastava, Raul E Isturiz, US College Students Are at Increased Risk for Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease, Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society,piz024, https://doi.org/10.1093/jpids/piz024
3 Meningococcal Disease: Clinical Information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html. Reviewed May 31, 2019. Accessed November 2020.
4 National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2019. 2020; 69(33). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6933-H.pdf. Reviewed August 21, 2020. Accessed November 2020.
5 Findings of Ipsos survey conducted in the United States during the months of February and March 2020. The survey included 1,500 parents of teens/young adults age 16-23. Funding for the survey was provided by GSK.
6 Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Meningococcal ACWY VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed November 2020.
7 Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Meningococcal B VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed November 2020.
American Academy of Pediatrics HealthyChildren.org: Meningococcal Disease: Information for Teens and College Students. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Meningococcal-Disease-Information-for-Teens-and-College-Students-.aspx. Updated August 2016.