Q&A: Meningitis Vaccines for A, C, W, Y & B

17 Nov

We wrote about the new serogroup B vaccine recommendation when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted on it in June.

On October 23, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved and published the recommendation for permissive use of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for adolescents at age 16-23, with a preferred age of 16-18. This made the recommendation official.

The meningococcal vaccine for A, C, W and Y is recommended at age 11-12 with a booster at 16 and is part of the routine vaccination schedule. The B vaccine is recommended permissively, meaning that parents have a larger responsibility to seek and request the vaccine. That’s why it’s so important for parents to speak with their child’s healthcare provider to make sure their child is fully vaccinated against the disease.

To make the vaccination process clearer and easier for everyone who wants to be fully protected, especially given this new recommendation, we have answered some common questions about meningococcal vaccination below.

Q: Can my teen receive the serogroup B vaccine during the same visit as the A, C, W and Y vaccine?

A: Yes, your teen can be vaccinated against serogroup B during the same visit as the quadrivalent vaccine, preferably in different arms. Fortunately teens can receive the quadrivalent vaccine and start the serogroup B series of shots at one visit at the age of 16. The serogroup B vaccines require either two or three doses.

Q: What can I do if my doctor doesn’t stock the serogroup B vaccine?

A: Because the serogroup B vaccine is still very new, some doctors may not have it in their offices yet. You can ask your doctor to order the vaccine. Otherwise, college health centers, pharmacies and/or travel clinics may have it in stock. Another way to locate vaccine providers who carry serogroup B vaccines is by using the HealthMap Vaccine Finder: http://vaccine.healthmap.org/

Q: Why isn’t the serogroup B vaccine recommended the same way the quadrivalent vaccine is?

A: Serogroup B meningococcal disease is very rare, and because the vaccines are new, we don’t know exactly how long their protection will last or if they will protect against every case of serogroup B disease. That being said, it is possible that the CDC will reconsider a routine recommendation in the future. NMA will continue to advocate for broader recommendation for the serogroup B vaccine.

Q: Does insurance cover the serogroup B vaccine?

A: Health plans will be required to cover serogroup B meningococcal disease vaccines beginning October 23, 2016, but many insurers will begin covering the vaccines before that date.

Note: The Vaccines for Children program (VFC) will provide vaccines at no cost to children who might not be vaccinated due to an inability to pay. VFC will cover the cost of the serogroup B vaccine for children ages 16 through 18 years old, or who are 10 through 18 years old and are identified at being at increased risk of developing meningitis B.


70 Percent of Teens Need the Meningitis Booster

13 Nov

This week, several public health and medical organizations published a call-to-action urging doctors to recommend and administer the meningococcal A, C, W and Y booster dose recommended at age 16.

The booster dose is recommended for all teens at age 16 because the protection they received from the first dose begins to wear off over time. It’s critical that kids receive the booster to protect them during the ages when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease.

Currently, less than 30 percent of first-dose recipients have received the booster. This means that about 70 percent of teens remain unprotected. We must improve this rate, and we know a doctor’s recommendation is a key factor in making sure our children are fully protected.

NMA applauds the efforts of these organizations and reminds all healthcare professionals and parents that when teens receive the A, C, W and Y booster dose, they should also talk to their doctor about getting the serogroup B vaccine!

Below is an excerpt followed by a link to the full call-to-action letter.

Dear Colleague:

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College Health Association (ACHA), Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) urge you and your fellow healthcare professionals to strongly recommend and administer the second (booster) dose of meningococcal ACWY vaccine (MenACWY or “MCV4”) at age 16.

MCV4 was developed to prevent meningococcal disease resulting from infection with serogroups A, C, W, or Y. Meningococcal disease is devastating and debilitating, with a staggering 10–15% case fatality rate.

In May 2005, CDC’s Advisory Committee on ImmunizationPractices (ACIP) published its recommendation to vaccinate all 11–12 year olds with MCV4. In 2006, only 11.7% of adolescents 13–17 years of age had received a dose of MCV4; by 2013, 1-dose coverage in children 13 years of age had grown to an impressive 78.0%.

In January 2011, ACIP recommended that a second (booster) dose of MCV4 be given at age 16 in order to enhance protection in the period of greatest vulnerability to meningococcal disease – 16 to 21 years of age.

Unfortunately, more than four years after this recommendation was published, the 2-dose coverage rate for MCV4 in 17-year-olds is only 28.5%.By vaccinating fewer than 1 in 3 eligible teens, we are leaving millions of young adults without the protection they need.

A provider’s endorsement of vaccination has long been recognized as a key factor in improving immunization rates.

You are therefore in a perfect position to improve coverage by offering a strong, unequivocal recommendation for vaccination with a second dose of MCV4. We urge you to take advantage of opportunities to vaccinate during all patient encounters, including well visits, camp and sports physicals, visits for acute or chronic illness, and visits for other recommended immunizations. Additional ideas for improving your rates are available at www.Give2MCV4.org.

Read more here: http://www.immunize.org/letter/letter_promoting_meningococcal_vaccination.pdf

#VaccinesSaveBro Photo Contest Winner on Why She Vaccinates Her Son

5 Nov

Throughout August and September, clothing designer Wire and Honey donated a percentage of proceeds from “Vaccines Save, Bro” T-Shirt sales to the National Meningitis Association! 

During this time, NMA held a photo contest – anyone who shared a photo of themselves or a loved one in a T-shirt by posting it to NMA’s Facebook page was entered. We announced the winner, Chrystal Light, a pediatric nurse who entered a photo of her adorable son Dylan, age two, at the end of September. We chatted with Chrystal about what inspires her to support vaccination. 


Q. What inspired you to enter the contest? How did you find out about it?
A. I found out about the contest through Wire and Honey’s Instagram account. The message is definitely something I stand behind, so I took a really cute pic of my son and it worked out!

Q. What experiences have you had as a pediatric nurse that have encouraged you to support vaccination?

A. I have taken care of patients who are immunocompromised and aren’t always able to receive vaccines on schedule. I believe in the importance of what we call “herd immunity,” where everyone gets vaccinated to help protect others who can’t be. This protects them from the diseases that they can’t get vaccines for – from chicken pox to measles mumps and rubella.

Q. What would you say to people who are hesitant about vaccinating their kids?

A. Usually in a nice way, especially on social media, I try to point them to the latest research. We see families in the hospital who don’t vaccinate their children, and we usually refer them to a doctor, who will explain why it is so important that they stick to the vaccine schedule.

Q. How would you suggest parents stay on top of their kids’ vaccination schedules?

  • Make sure they see their pediatricians when they’re supposed to, which is usually timed to coincide with their vaccinations.
  • Make sure they stay on top of CDC’s schedules of recommended vaccinations.
  • Keep up-to-date immunization cards for their children.

Congratulations, Chrystal! Thank you for helping us to raise awareness about life-saving vaccines!

The Push to End Meningitis Cases and Outbreaks

13 Aug

In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, NMA President Lynn Bozof recently wrote a guest blog post for the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University (MHA@GW). Throughout the month of August, it will feature pieces from thought leaders and advocates from the immunization community who can speak to the importance of immunization. Below is an excerpt and you can click the link to read the full post:

Lynn Bozof Headshot

Vaccines have saved millions of lives, but there’s one life that they could not save — a life that will always be in my heart. My son who lost his life because he was not vaccinated.

My story started 17 years ago. My son Evan was a junior at Georgia Southwestern University, a pitcher for his college baseball team and in excellent health. On a Wednesday morning in March, Evan called to say he had a terrible migraine headache. When the symptoms worsened, I suggested he go to the emergency room. Hours later, he was in intensive care.

Evan had meningococcal meningitis, a multi-syllabic disease that kills rapidly, without mercy. For weeks, Evan struggled to fight the infection. We were surrounded by doctors and medical teams. We clung to any indication that he might live. But one complication followed another — extremely low blood pressure, damage to the lungs and liver, gangrene of the limbs followed by amputation of all his limbs, seizures and finally, irreversible brain damage. Evan died 26 days after his first phone call to us.

Meningococcal disease, also known as bacterial meningitis, is difficult to say but simple to prevent with a vaccine. Meningitis kills 10 to 15 percent of the people who get it. About 20 percent of those who survive will suffer serious, long-term complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function or amputations.

When my son died, there were no routine recommendations for meningococcal vaccination. Now, in part because of years of advocacy from awareness groups and families, we have recommendations in place to protect adolescents and young adults. I have been personally so thrilled each time a meningococcal vaccine has been recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) External link. It doesn’t change the course of my story, but it creates an opportunity to change the story for you and so many others…


Read more:  http://mha.gwu.edu/niam-2015-push-to-end-meningitis-outbreaks/

#NMAInAction at the Statehouse

24 Jul

How and Why Advocates Work for Policy Change

There are many ways that M.O.M.s and T.E.A.M. members work to fulfill NMA’s mission to protect families from the potentially devastating effects of meningococcal disease by educating the public, medical professionals and others about the disease and its prevention.

A few NMA M.O.M.s and T.E.A.M. members focus their efforts on supporting the implementation of meningococcal vaccination and education policies in their states.

When NMA was founded in 2002 there weren’t even routine recommendations for meningococcal vaccination, let alone any state-based requirements. However, in the past five months alone, three states passed bills related to meningococcal disease vaccination. That brings the current total of states that require vaccination or education about meningococcal disease to 43.

Vaccination Requirements State by

These requirements can make a big impact. Sometimes people don’t make prevention a priority. They may believe they’re young and healthy and don’t think that something like this couldn’t happen to them. Sometimes teens are busy and they simply forget. Studies have shown that the states with the highest meningococcal vaccination rates tend to have one or more vaccination requirements for school entry.

We asked a few advocates who helped successfully bring meningococcal disease prevention polices to their home state to share their experiences. Their responses reflected how difficult and rewarding influencing policy can be.

One thing that was universal is that advocates take on this challenge to save lives:

“It’s amazing to feel like I did something that encourages the safety of children in my state.” – T.E.A.M. Member Samantha Bennett

“Knowing that this bill could save lives and save a family from going through our pain is all the motivation that I needed.” – M.O.M. Cindy Krejny

“Rob should not have died, but I couldn’t save Rob so I said I’m going to attack this disease that took his life and I’m going to focus on prevention. What’s going to make a lawmaker listen is your story. That story will get the point across, it takes small steps.” – M.O.M. Jeri Acosta

However they also told us that getting a bill passed can take a lot of patience and hard work:

“Over 10 years ago I testified for the first bill, which was a [vaccination] bill but got shot down to an education bill. The second time the new bill passed through the Senate and got stalled in the House Heath Committee and time ran out. This bill which I also testified on was just passed through and signed by the governor on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Be persistent.”  – M.O.M. Cindy

“I couldn’t have done it alone, before you testify you want to make enough noise to get it [the bill] assigned to a committee.” —M.O.M. Jeri

“I kept motivated by constantly keeping in touch. Even if it was just writing something on Twitter and using hashtags. I kept in touch with everyone I knew was a part of passing a bill in my state. I never said “no” to an invitation to any events. I made sure I was available and ready to go.” – T.E.A.M. member Samantha

And that sometimes when it’s over, the feeling can be bittersweet:

“When Arizona became the first state to mandate the meningococcal vaccine, I was elated but also sad.  I knew other families would not lose their precious children to this terrible disease but that it was due to the loss of my special son.”  – M.O.M. and NMA Board Member Leslie Maier

We’ve come a long way. Thanks to the work of advocates like Cindy, Jeri, Leslie and Samantha, many more preteens and teens will be protected from this terrible disease. Of course there’s still more work to be done and if their stories inspire you we encourage you to contact your representatives!

New Vaccination Recommendations for Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease!

24 Jun

Earlier today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for permissive use of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for older teens and young adults (full language below).

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 B vaccination is 16 through 18 years of age.

What Does This Mean?
Until now, the meningococcal vaccine recommended for routine vaccination only protected against four of five major strains of the disease (A, C, W and Y). Today’s recommendation is critical because, if accepted by CDC, it allows those 16 to 18 to decide, in collaboration with their parents and healthcare professionals, if they wish to be immunized against the fifth serogroup (B), which is currently the most common cause of disease in this age range. It will also ensure the meningitis B vaccines are covered by public and private insurance and medical practices will be more likely to stock and administer them.

What Happens Now?
It is important to know that this recommendation is for a new and different vaccination than the routinely recommended one your teen may already have received:

  • If your child has not received any meningococcal vaccines, he or she should get the recommended vaccine to protect against A, C, W and Y at age 11-12 with a booster at 16. When your child goes to get the booster, ask about the B vaccine.
  • If your teen received at least one A, C, W and Y meningococcal vaccine, you should make sure he or she goes back for the booster at age 16 and ask about the B vaccine for ages 16 to 23.
  • If your teen is up-to-date on meningococcal vaccines (including the booster), call your healthcare provider and ask about the B vaccine.

(Note, depending on which vaccine your provider uses, the serogroup B vaccination may be a two or three dose series.)

Please help spread the word about the need for vaccination against all serogroups of meningitis. Educating parents, teens and young adults, healthcare providers and college administrators about available vaccination options is extremely important.

Why Did We Need a Recommendation to #BVaccinated?
Though rare, meningococcal disease affects persons of all ages in the U.S. and is potentially deadly. Serogroup B accounts for one-third of U.S. cases, and is the most common cause of disease in adolescents. From 2013 to 2015 alone, four college campuses experienced outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease. There were also many isolated cases.

However, numbers can’t tell the whole story and we’re grateful for the many advocates who shared their personal stories to help put a face to this disease. Here are some samples of what NMA’s M.O.M. and T.E.A.M. members said or submitted to the ACIP today:

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In addition, about 1,240 people representing all 50 states signed NMA’s open letter to ACIP supporting broad serogroup B vaccination recommendations. We were overwhelmed by the responses from healthcare professionals, college health professionals, parents, college students, individuals touched by this disease and others who support prevention. We received more than 500 comments, which you can read here.

This recommendation is an important step forward; let’s use it to make sure all teens are A, C, W, Y and #BVaccinated.

Take Action to Make Sure Teens are #BVaccinated

10 Jun

On June 24th, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will be meeting to discuss recommendations for the serogroup B meningococcal vaccines which recently became available in the U.S.

In February, they voted to recommend the meningitis B vaccine for a limited number of sub-populations at increased risk. While that was a step forward, NMA hopes ACIP will vote for recommendations to protect all adolescents and college students.

We hope you’ve been following along as we’ve discussed why this recommendation is so important (if not, you can catch up here), and that we’ve inspired you to take action.

ACIP accepts written testimony for review when considering its vote and NMA has developed an open letter to the committee (below) on which we would welcome your support.

Let’s make sure no one else has to experience the devastating impact of this disease!


June 24, 2015

Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices:

For young adults, the future is full of hope and infinite possibilities. Meningococcal disease shouldn’t be one of them.

We are writing to you because we or someone we know has been touched by this disease, or because we recognize the terrible impact this disease has on those affected (individual comments are attached). Those of us who were affected by serogroup B disease did not have the opportunity to protect ourselves or our loved ones.

This disease can strike so quickly and can be indescribably devastating. One day someone is healthy and then the next day he’s fighting for his life. You’ve heard from many people who have lost loved ones or who have survived but will be dealing with the impact of the illness for the rest of their lives. There are many more whose stories haven’t been told. In recent years it has also become clear how even one case in a college setting has major repercussions as many colleges have had to deal with cases and even outbreaks of serogroup B on campus. Prevention is critical.

The majority of people want to protect themselves and their children from meningitis; nearly 80% of U.S. teens receive their first dose of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine. But that is not enough. Many people think that they or their children are fully protected by the currently recommended meningococcal vaccines. Others are asking their doctors for the B vaccine and are being told that it is not available or are having difficulty getting it.

Now that meningitis B vaccines are available, we urge you to do the right thing. We urge you to recommend routine vaccination against serogroup B meningococcal disease, making it easy for all of us to protect our teens.

Thank you,

Click here to sign on and show your support.

This post is part of the #BVaccinated series based on NMA’s report, Beyond the Science: Putting a Face on Meningococcal Disease. As national policy regarding serogroup B meningococcal vaccination is discussed and implemented, NMA urges all those involved to consider these perspectives. We believe that routinely vaccinating our children against this disease is the right thing to do.



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