The following is adapted from NMA President Lynn Bozof’s testimony at the February 2016 ACIP meeting.
I didn’t originally plan to speak at this week’s meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP). There were no votes scheduled about meningococcal vaccines, and by now most members know my story of losing my son, Evan, to meningococcal disease when he was a junior in college.
However, I have received so many e-mails and phone calls about the difficulty of getting serogroup B vaccines that I felt I had to say something. Especially with the recent serogroup B outbreak at Santa Clara University and case at Yale University.
When the ACIP voted to permissively recommend serogroup B meningococcal vaccination for teens and young adults last year, it seemed like a great start. We thought people who wanted to fully protect their children against all meningococcal strains would simply have to tell their healthcare provider that it was important to them to get the vaccine.
In reality, that’s not the case. I hear from parents on a daily basis that their children’s doctors are unaware of the two different types of vaccines, and even fewer stock the B vaccine, nor do they know where to tell people to get it.
Last week, a parent whose son contracted serogroup B meningitis told me she and her husband had to make a dozen calls to find a healthcare professional to vaccinate their other son against B. One of NMA’s survivors who contracted the disease while in college went to five different places before she was able to get the B vaccine. They were determined. But, at that point, most people would have given up.
Parents want to send their kids off to college fully vaccinated. Making this happen should be an easy, no-brainer. It’s not. When we have someone who wants to be vaccinated, yet can’t find the vaccine, that’s a bad situation. When you have a doctor or nurse who doesn’t know how to deal with a vaccine request, that’s a bad situation. We need to change this.
NMA urges healthcare providers to either stock serogroup B meningococcal vaccine or to learn where to refer patients who want it. We encourage parents who want to fully vaccinate their children not to give up when trying to locate the vaccines. And finally, we hope the ACIP will review the current recommendations for serogroup B, so that the right thing to do – protecting our children—will be the easy thing to do.