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Heard of the Meningitis Vaccine?

It's Safe, Effective, and Can Save Lives, Yet It's Unknown to Many

Few Doctors Mention It continued...

Another reason for doctors to hesitate: "While the vaccine is available, it's not readily available," says Carol Baker, MD, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases.

"Doctors have to work harder to locate the vaccine because it's not routinely recommended. And while most physicians would be willing to give this to patients, the vaccine comes in a multidose vial -- you have to pay for 10 doses for a vaccine that has the same (short) shelf life as a single-vial vaccine," she tells WebMD. "That means that many doctors are very unlikely to not lose money by having this vaccine in their office."

Would she have her own teenaged children vaccinated? "In a second," says Baker, who praised Offit's article for "clearly laying out the issues of a controversial issue and being well-balanced."

Offit, author of a consumer book, Vaccines: What You Should Know, says he hopes his article will at least urge more doctors to discuss the vaccine with parents of their teenaged patients so they can decide if it's worth the expense. He and co-author Georges Peter, MD, of Brown Medical School, also advocate that physical exam forms for schools, camps, and sports activities include information about the vaccine.

Grassroots Effort

In the meantime, Mike Kepferle is doing his part. After his son's death, he and four other parents of teens killed or handicapped by meningococcal infections formed the National Meningitis Association Inc. Besides operating a web site, they are currently mailing an alert to parents of high school seniors across the country that there is a vaccine that may help them prevent the fate of their children. Kepferle serves as director of the nonprofit group.

"And next year, we'll expand it to parents of younger kids," he tells WebMD. "What we want is for other parents to get the information they need -- and know there's a vaccine that's been around for decades that can help prevent meningitis. We're not telling them what they should do. We just want them to know what they need to know so they can make their own decision."

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