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Meningitis Vaccine Schedule Simplified

CDC Committee Recommends Meningitis Vaccine for All Adolescents Aged 11-18
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Meningitis Vac Recs

July 12, 2007 -- The CDC today announced that it's simplifying its recommendations about when to get vaccinated against meningitis and other meningococcal diseases.

The CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now recommend that all adolescents aged 11-18 get vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

That's not a radical change from the CDC's old meningitis vaccination schedule.

"In the past, vaccination of adolescents and young adults was recommended to coincide with specific ages or events," the CDC's Tom Clark, MD, said at a news conference today.

Clark is a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

He explains that the meningococcal disease vaccine MCV4 was previously recommended for kids "at ages 11-12, and if they weren't previously vaccinated, for teens at high school entry, or for college freshmen living in dorms."

The new recommendations will become official CDC policy when published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

But teens and young adults shouldn't wait until then to get vaccinated, since they're more likely than other age groups to get meningococcal diseases, which can be fatal.

"Meningococcal disease is extremely serious and much better to prevent than to treat," says Clark.

About Meningococcal Diseases

Meningococcal diseases are usually caused by bacteria or viruses. They can affect the bloodstream, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges), or other parts of the body.

Every year, the U.S. has 1,400 to 2,800 cases of meningococcal disease.

"Even with rapid and appropriate medical treatment, including antibiotics, 10% to 14% of those who get meningococcal disease will die from it. This includes young, healthy people," says Clark.

Meningococcal bacteria can spread among people in close contact, such as those in classrooms or university dorms.

The CDC continues to recommend meningococcal vaccination for military recruits, some international travelers, scientists who work with meningococcal bacteria, and people with certain underlying medical conditions, says Clark.

New Meningitis Vaccine Recommendation

The preferred meningococcal vaccine for people aged 11-55 is the MCV4 vaccine, which targets four of the five strains of meningococcal diseases, according to the CDC.

An older meningococcal vaccine, MPSV4, is also available and is recommended for certain children aged 2-10 who are at high risk for meningococcal diseases.

"The newer conjugate vaccine [MCV4] should confer longer-lasting immunity and could even interrupt transmission of the disease in the population if enough people are vaccinated," Clark says.

The MCV4 vaccine is made by the drug company Sanofi Pasteur. Clark says the vaccine's supplies are sufficient to accommodate the CDC's new vaccination recommendations.

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