“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
The majority of U.S. parents get their children vaccinated with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine against serogroups A, C, W and Y (nearly 80% of U.S. teens receive their first dose). This vaccine is currently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at age 11-12 and again at 16.
Participants at the NMA roundtable noted that they believed this meant their children were no longer at risk of meningococcal disease. It’s something I hear from parents over and over again. They didn’t know about serogroup B.
Teens need BOTH vaccines and we know that a doctor’s recommendation is the best way to make sure that they get them. Yet, without a routine recommendation the message healthcare providers will have to give to patients is “the CDC recommends that your child be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, but this vaccine won’t protect against all strains of the disease. There is an additional vaccine that protects against the strain most common in adolescents. It’s not recommended, but your child can get it if you want.” This is an extremely complicated message for healthcare professionals to deliver. And more importantly, it’s a hard message for a parent to hear and understand.
We can’t expect parents to know that their children are not protected against serogroup B and we can’t expect healthcare providers to act without strong guidance from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
That’s why we hope that on June 24th, the Committee will do the right thing and vote for a recommendation for teens to #BVaccinated.
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.