Will We See Broader Recommendations for the MenB Vaccine?
Currently, the ACIP recommends that adolescents receive the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) at ages 11-12, with a booster dose at age 16, to protect against the A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal bacteria. Statistics show that nearly 80% of teens have received at least one dose of this vaccine, which is fairly remarkable considering the fact that the vaccine is recommended, but is not mandated for school or college in most states. However, it’s important that parents realize that the MCV4 vaccine does not prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease, which currently accounts for 1/3 of all U.S. cases of meningococcal disease and has been spreading through college campuses in recent years.
Fortunately, two new vaccines to protect against meningococcal serogroup B were recently approved by the FDA. The Trumenba vaccine is developed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and requires three doses, and the two-dose Bexsero vaccine was developed by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics (GSK acquired Novartis Vaccines in March 2015, excluding the Novartis influenza division). After these vaccines received FDA approval in late 2014, the ACIP recommended a meningococcal serogroup B vaccine (MenB) for certain high-risk groups at their next meeting in February 2015.
However, many people questioned why the recommendation wasn’t for a broader population. If the ACIP recommends that all adolescents protect themselves with the MCV4 vaccine, why wouldn’t they also be suggesting parents protect their children from the dangers of serogroup B as well?
Even before the February ACIP meeting, parents who have lost their children to meningococcal disease,and meningococcal survivors have been speaking out and urging the committee to consider broader recommendations. The concern is that without a recommendation from the ACIP, most parents will fail to recognize the need for another meningococcal vaccination. How sad would it be to learn of suffering and death from a case of serogroup B meningococcal diseases when there is a known vaccine that could have prevented it? Additionally, it’s reasonable to think that parents who have administered a meningitis vaccine to their children (MCV4) will mistakenly believe that they are taking all the precautionary measures possible to prevent all types of meningococcal disease. How likely will they be to know about the protection offered from MenB, to specifically prevent the serogroup B strain of the disease, if it is not recommended?
To find out more about meningococcal disease, the vaccines that are available to prevent it, and the upcoming discussion at the June ACIP meeting, subscribe to this Shot of Prevention blog in the upper right hand corner of the page, and check out the National Meningitis Association’s Parents Who Protect blog.
In their latest post as part of the #BVaccinated series, “Teens Need BOTH Vaccines”, the NMA shares critical information from their report, Beyond the Science: Putting a Face on Meningococcal Disease and the following quotes echo the concerns that will be shared with ACIP committee members later this month:
“I knew he needed a meningococcal vaccine before going to college and so we made sure he had it. I had no idea as a layperson that there was a strain [serogroup B] that wasn’t included in the vaccine. I didn’t think he was at risk because we did the right thing—we got him vaccinated.” —Debbie, mother of a survivor of a college outbreak at age 19
“When Kim got sick, I didn’t think she could have meningitis because she was vaccinated. Even when she started to get the meningococcal rash, my oncology nurse training made me think first that she must have some kind of blood cancer, not meningitis. But Kim had meningococcal serogroup B, which was not covered by the vaccine.” —Patti Wukovits, RN, mother of Kimberly, died at age 17
“She called me that day and said, ‘Mom, my headache hurts so bad. My neck hurts. My body hurts like a truck ran over me.’ And I said, ‘Well Cait, you—honey—you can’t get meningitis, you’ve had your vaccine.’ I—I was so sure of it. I didn’t know. They don’t tell you that the vaccine doesn’t protect against serogroup B.” —Eilleen Boyle, mother of Caitlin, died at age 19”