Meningitis is an inflammatory process involving the membranes surrounding the brain, and can have many causes. Meningococcal meningitis is a form of meningitis caused by infection with the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, which can be rapidly fatal or cause long term sequela such as hearing loss.
There a several different serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis, identified by different proteins in the bacteria. The different serogroups include serogroups A, C, W, and Y, serogroup B, and serogroup C. Serogroups C, Y, or W cause 73% of all cases of meningococcal disease in persons > 11years. Serogroup B causes 60% of causes of meningococcal disease in children aged 0 to 59 months.
There are two meningococcal conjugate vaccines that target serogroups A,C,W, and Y that were approved by the FDA in 2005 (MenACWY-D, Menactra®) and 2010 (MenACWY-CRM, Menveo®). These vaccines are recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Council for Immunization Practices (ACIP) for routine vaccination of all adolescents. Georgia Tech requires that all student less than 22 years of age receive a dose of one of these two vaccines on or after their 16th birthday.
Two new meningococcal vaccines have recently been approved by the FDA. These vaccines target meningococcal serogroup B. Vaccine for serogroup B has previously been available in Europe but not the US. Four recent outbreaks on college campuses in the US of meningitis due to serogroup B have led to the push to approve these vaccines for serogroup B in the US.
In February 2015 the ACIP recommended the serogroup B meningococcal vaccines for individuals > 10 years of age who are at increased risk of serogroup B meningococcal disease. In June 2015 ACIP chose not to recommend that all adolescents get the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine as a routine vaccination, but left the decision to get the vaccine up to parents and their primary care doctors. The decision to get the vaccine should be based on weighing the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
Factors that may sway one to get the vaccine include knowledge of the fact that first year college students living in campus housing are at increased risk of meningitis based on research done in the 1990’s. There have also been 4 outbreaks of meningitis due to serogroup B on college campuses in the last 2-3 years, including, Princeton, University of California at Santa Barbara, and University of Oregon. Also, individuals who are at increased risk of meningitis should consider getting the vaccination. Such individuals include those who have a persistent complement deficiency due to an inherited disorder or due to medications, persons with functional or anatomic asplenia (for example, someone with sickle cell disease or who has had their spleen removed due to trauma), lab personnel who work with Neisseria meningitidis, and individuals in a community in which an outbreak of group B meningitis is occurring.
Factors that may sway one not to get the vaccine include the fact that the group B vaccine is either 2 or 3 shots, instead of the one shot for the required meningococcal vaccine. Cost is also a consideration. Since the group B vaccines are new, data on their safety and duration of protection are also limited.
At this time Georgia Tech will not require the group B meningococcal vaccine, but we do list it as a recommended vaccine. If circumstances change in a way that would suggest an increased risk of group B meningococcal exposure, such as an outbreak on campus, our recommendations may change.