CDC Recommends Expanding Use of Meningitis Vaccine
CDC on Thursday recommended that all children ages 11 and 12, as well as high school and college freshmen, receive Sanofi Pasteur's meningitis vaccine Menactra, the Los Angeles Times reports (Piller, Los Angeles Times, 5/27). A CDC advisory panel in February said that all college freshmen who live in dormitories should receive meningitis vaccinations, a recommendation that was prompted in large part by the availability of a new, more effective vaccine. The committee also recommended meningitis vaccinations for all children ages 11 to 12 and said that at least four million children should receive the vaccine under the federal children's vaccine program. Menactra remains effective for eight years, four to five years longer than the old vaccine. In addition, the old meningitis vaccine did not prevent people from becoming carriers of the disease (California Healthline, 2/14).
"This is a very bad disease," said the American Academy of Pediatrics' Carol J. Baker, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. She added, "It's very rapidly progressive in adolescence. You can have an adolescent in a shopping mall at two in the afternoon, in the emergency room at six in the evening and death by midnight" (Tanner, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/27). CDC's recommendations are "much comprehensive and much more directive" than earlier guidelines, William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said.
About 3,000 people in the United States contract meningococcal disease annually and 300 of them die, CDC said. Up to 15% of those affected might suffer permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, amputation of limbs or brain damage (Altman, New York Times, 5/27).