ACIP Passes “Permissive” Recommendation for MenB Vaccine for Young Adults
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend MenB vaccine earlier today in order to protect young adults from the deadly “b” strain of meningitis. The full recommendation wording is as follows,
“A serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults 16 through 23 years of age to provide short term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for MenB vaccination is 16 through 18 years of age.”
Several hours of deliberation by the Committee followed by heartbreaking testimony from the National Meningitis Association, Meningitis Angels and several families devastated by the serogroup B strain of meningitis preceded the vote.
Members of the Committee felt that the data available currently regarding the short length of duration of protection with the vaccine, combined with the high cost burden of vaccinating the entire public for a disease that has a relatively low incidence rate, were some of the rationales for including the wording “may be vaccinated” in the recommendation. This wording designates the recommendation as a “Category B or permissive recommendation”
Many who testified feared that a Category B recommendation could cause confusion among providers and the public and would result in a lack of access if insurers failed to cover the costs of the vaccine. The Committee was assured by the CDC that a Category B recommendation will result in the vaccine being covered by the Vaccines For Children Program and the Affordable Care Act.
Meningitis survivor Andy Marso pleaded with the Committee to consider fully recommending the vaccine in order to avoid confusion among providers and inequitable access for the public. Andy contracted meningitis as a college student and racked up $2 million dollars in hospital bills within just the first year. “That would buy a lot of vaccines,” he stated.
“I need your help” he continued, “I want to make sure others don’t get meningitis because every time I hear of another person who contracts meningitis it strikes me in the chest.” “I wonder what if I had done more? What if I had talked to more people? Maybe my warnings could have reached that person. Maybe that person would have gotten vaccinated, or not shared that bacteria-ridden cup, or gotten to the hospital on time…I have a terrible responsibility now…and you can help free me by fully recommending the vaccine.”
As noted in a recent Shot of Prevention post, “the ACIP also 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.”
One thing is certain, moving forward there will be a herculean task of educating the public and providers about the new recommendation. Stay tuned for a more thorough post on the meeting in the coming days.