College Students Receiving Rare Meningitis Vaccination

Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines, Bexsero and Trumenba, have been licensed by the FDA

College students studying in open library

As many as one thousand UMass Amherst students are expected to get vaccinated for a rare meningitis strain that threatens to spread across the campus.

Most college students are required to get a meningitis vaccine upon enrollment, but the basic meningitis vaccine doesn’t protect against the less common type-B strain that infected two UMass Amherst students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) says the fatality rate for this type-B strain is up to 15 percent even when treated, and many infected people are left with disabilities.

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and infections of the blood.

Meningococcal disease often occurs without warning, even among people who are otherwise healthy, reports the CDC.

George A. Corey, M.D. Executive Director University Health Services at the UMass Amherst University (UHS) said in a written notice, “We want to emphasize that the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in any individual student is very low and that following health-smart practices will prevent the spread of the disease.”

“UHS has plenty of Serogroup B vaccine on hand and is vaccinating students by appointment. We will be offering vaccinations during the Thanksgiving holiday break.”

There are two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines, Bexsero and Trumenba, have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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These vaccines are recommended routinely for people 10 years or older who are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal infections, including:

  • People at risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak
  • Anyone whose spleen is damaged or has been removed
  • Anyone with a rare immune system condition called "persistent complement component deficiency"
  • Anyone taking a drug called eculizumab (also called Soliris®)
  • Microbiologists who routinely work with isolates of N. meningitidis

These vaccines may also be given to anyone 16 through 23 years old to provide short term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease.

For best protection, more than 1 dose of a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine is needed. The same vaccine must be used for all doses.

“Meningococcus B is not spread through sweat. It is safe to go to the Recreation Center and use the exercise equipment, and to swim in university pools. Do not share water bottles while working out” said Dr. Corey.

Additional information on bacterial meningitis may be found here, or by calling the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800.

Most pharmacies in the USA offer vaccination service. Vaccine prices vary, and can be researched at this CDC site. 

To research vaccine discounts, please visit this page