The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP)‘s revised recommendations regarding the recently FDA approved Meningococccal B (MenB) vaccine has been greeted with enthusiasm by Florida doctors treating high school and college bound students.
Until now the only anti-meningitis vaccine available protected against 4 out of the 5 serotypes (A,C, Y and W) responsible for the bacterial infection.
The new vaccine approved for ages 10 to 25, protects against serotype B, one of the most devastating forms of bacterial meningitis.
The ACIP policy states that a MenB vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults ages 16 through 23 to provide short term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 through 18 years.
Sadly, the new vaccine comes too late for 17 year old Kimberly Coffey who died in 2012 one week before her high school prom and graduation. Ironically, she had been vaccinated against serogroups A,C, Y and W.
As a result of her daughter’s death, Long Island resident and nurse, Patti Wukovits, has became an activist, advocating for the education of parents and adolescents about the importance of prevention. She is now one of the National Meningitis Association’s Moms on Meningitis (M.O.Ms) and also serves on the board of Nurses Who Vaccinate.
In honor of her daughter’s memory, Patti and her husband have established the “Kimberly Coffey Foundation” to raise awareness about meningococcal disease. Despite what happened to Kimberly, Patti found that last year when she spoke to the juniors and seniors in health classes at East Islip High where her daughter attended, few were aware of the disease or its consequences.
She and her husband now offer a nursing scholarship to students from East Islip High School. Applicants have to show proof that they have received the vaccine.
In June, with urging from activists like Patti Wukovits, the New York legislature passed a meningitis vaccine mandate for seventh graders. Patti explained that the bill requires seventh graders in the state to get the quadrivalent vaccine with a booster in twelfth grade. “The meningitis B (MenB) vaccine will probably be included once the ACIP makes that a recommendation,” she said. The governor has not signed the bill yet, but Patti is hopeful he will.
Although a Florida statue mandates the quadrivalent meningitis vaccine for college students living in on-campus housing, there is no such mandate for young students nor any requirement for the MenB vaccine at any age.
Meningococci B, which starts off with flu-like symptoms, is contagious and can be contracted during close contact, including coughing, kissing or sharing drinking cups and utensils. Otherwise healthy young people living in college dorms are especially vulnerable to catching the disease from fellow students.
In 2013 there were meningitis B outbreaks at Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. At that time there was no B strain vaccine available anywhere in the United States – even though the B strain accounted for one third of the roughly 500 meningitis cases that year. The European Union and Australia had already approved a stand-alone meningitis B vaccine manufactured by Novartis, so the FDA cleared its use at the two schools, but only on an investigational basis.
In 2015, there were outbreaks of meningitis B at the University of Oregon and Providence College in Rhode Island. One student died in Oregon,
So far effectiveness of the vaccine has been shown only in children 10 years of age and older. Hopefully in the near future there will be a similar vaccine for younger children who are affected by the B serotype more frequently than the older group.
The current recommendation for the vaccine for serotypes A,C Y and W is a dose at age 11 with a booster typically given at age 16. It will have to be determined if the new vaccine will be given at the same time
Florida doctors can finally offer both the quadrivalent vaccine (for serogroups A,C, Y and W) the MenB (2 or 3 dose) series.
The two newly licensed MenB vaccine – 3 dose Trumenba from Pfizer and 2 dose Bexsero from GlaxoSmith Kline – will be covered under both Vaccine For Children (VFC) and private insurers based on Affordable Care Act guidelines.
While there is no still formal MenB vaccine recommendation for all college students, Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, Director of the Klotz Student Health Center, California State University, Northridge was contacted for this article and suggests that parents ask their physician about the new MenB vaccine for their children bound for college – especially if they are in high risk groups as defined by the CDC or if they will be living in Greek of campus housing.