It is under consideration whether all college students nationwide should be recommended to get the newly approved meningitis B vaccine. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is contemplating this decision after a recent breakout of meningococcal meningitis on college campuses, including the University of Oregon.
Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but serious infection. It causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. Each year, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. get meningococcal disease, which includes meningitis and septicemia (blood infection).Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal or cause great harm without prompt treatment; as many as one out of five people who contract the infection have serious complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 15% of those who survive are left with disabilities that include deafness, brain damage, and neurological problems, as reported by WebMD.
The ACIP recommendation carries weight in the industry and typically prompts insurance companies to cover the expensive cost of the three or four shot vaccine.
The hesitation over the decision is because officials cannot decided whether the meningitis B vaccine used to treat students during recent outbreaks is worth dispersing to the entire U.S. population.
It’s estimated that the vaccine could save three or four lives a year if recommended by ACIP.
According to Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County’s Chief of Communicable Disease, once sat on the ACIP, recommending everyone to include the vaccine in their routine shots is a tough call to make.
“How much are you willing to pay to prevent a very rare disease,” Dr. Duchin said. “These vaccines can have adverse affects. The question is, are you are going to be vaccinating millions and millions of people to prevent a very small number of cases?