Immunizing Against Meningitis B

12 05 2016

I have two children—one is in high school and the other is in college.

It’s time for the older one to leave her pediatrician and connect with an adult doctor. But before waving goodbye to her childhood medical home, I asked her pediatrician to immunize both girls against meningitis B.

Meningitis (meningococcal disease) can be caused by any one of several germs, or fungi, or even cancer.

Mening B Immunization

We can’t easily prevent all cases of meningitis, but there are vaccines to stop infections from certain germs.

We have good vaccines that protect against several strains of bacterial meningitis, but until recently, we didn’t have any approved vaccines to protect against meningitis B.

This strain has caused outbreaks at colleges around the country because the young people aren’t protected.

In the US, we now have approved vaccines for use against meningitis B. They require two or three doses, depending on which one you use.

Because the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) doesn’t yet recommend that all young people be immunized against meningitis B, the girls’ pediatrician doesn’t stock the vaccine in her office.

When I told her I wanted the girls protected, she ordered it and we received a call from her office after a few days, telling us it was in.

I also checked with my insurance company to make sure they would cover the cost of the vaccine, and they said yes. That was a relief! The price to fully vaccinate both girls would be a hit to my pocketbook.

After vaccination, the girls complained of sore arms for a couple of days, and we go back in a few weeks for a second shot, but I have to say, it’s a load off of my mind and I’ll be happy when they’re fully protected.

We’re lucky that insurance covers the vaccine, and that we have insurance.

It’s worth a call to your older child’s healthcare provider to see if he or she has received the meningitis B vaccine. If not, please get your child protected against this rare and awful disease. You know the old saying: Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

 

 

 

By Trish Parnell

 





Meningitis B Vaccine – Who Gets It?

19 01 2015

My whole life is on the Outlook calendar. Birthdays, meetings, to-do lists, reminders—when anything pops up, it goes on the calendar. Doesn’t matter if it’s four days or four years from now, it gets noted.

In a few months, my younger daughter will be 16. If you sat at my computer and clicked to that day, you’d find two things: 1) Bug’s birthday and, 2) Call to get mening booster for Bug. (Don’t tell her I called her Bug in this blog, but that is what you’d read in my calendar. It stands for Love Bug.)

Meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease, is the real version of the monster under the bed. That’s how scared I am of this disease.

Love Bug - the early years.

Love Bug – the early years.

It’s not as common as flu, but when it strikes, it can kill or do horrendous damage to the body within hours of the first symptom appearing.

In the US, we have vaccines we use against several strains of the disease.

In the fall of 2014, the FDA approved a vaccine against serogroup B, a strain not found in our current vaccines. There’s at least one other vaccine against serogroup B that’s waiting for approval from the FDA, and I’m guessing that approval won’t be long in coming.

Because we haven’t had a vaccine against serogroup B, we’ve left our at-risk populations defenseless. When Princeton and Santa Barbara had their meningitis outbreaks in 2013, the culprit was serogroup B.

But, the good news is that the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) will now take a look at the vaccine that protects against meningitis serogroup B and decide what recommendations it will make. The ACIP exists to make “recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.”

It could be that the ACIP will decide to recommend that all young people ages 10 to 25 should be vaccinated. Or, they may recommend that the vaccine only be given in the event of an outbreak.

The CDC has a specific definition of outbreak when it comes to meningitis, and that is: An outbreak occurs when there are multiple cases in a community or institution over a short period of time. Specifically, an outbreak is defined as three or more cases of the same serogroup (“strain”) occurring within three months. Sometimes having just two cases in a school or college can meet the outbreak definition.

For a more precise definition, check out this Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on the Evaluation and Management of Suspected Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease.

My personal feeling is that we’re a country that can afford to protect ourselves against vaccine-preventable diseases and we should take advantage of that fact. Why wait until an outbreak to start vaccinating? Let’s get the at-risk populations vaccinated and not worry about an outbreak.

I suspect that as discussions ensue, the cost of vaccinating pre-outbreak will be a major factor in determining what the official recommendations will be. After all, the federal government does have a budget. Maybe a few more zeroes in their budget compared to yours or mine, but still.

I know that other interests are clamoring for their share of the pot. Alzheimer’s research, foodborne illness, alcohol poisoning—everyone deserves some of the health and medical dollars available. As do those with other interests, such as agriculture, space exploration, or marine biology.

But still.

Preventing meningococcal disease has always made more sense to me than hoping treatment works and burying those for whom it does not.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. We will share them with ACIP members as they meet to discuss what recommendations to make for the new vaccines.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





HPV Vaccine – Not Just for Girls

14 05 2010

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine came out a few years ago and it’s recommended for routine use in females.

Now, there’s an HPV vaccine for males, and for good reason.  Boys and men can get genital warts as well as oral, penile, anal, and other cancers from HPV infection.  Also, if a male is infected with HPV, he can infect his partner.

Late last year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the vaccine for optional use in males.

So, why is the recommendation optional for males?  ACIP members are not sure if the benefits of vaccinating boys outweigh the costs to do so.

This leaves parents with a recommendation, of sorts, but nothing very clear.

Should you have your boys vaccinated against HPV?

Talk to your son’s healthcare provider. It’s important to get vaccinated prior to one’s first sexual contact, so that’s something to consider as you mull over your choices.

CDC provides some good information about males and HPV infection, if you’d like to start researching the topic a bit more.

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