In an important move to protect college students from deadly disease, Purdue University and Indiana University announced that, starting this fall, incoming students at all of their campuses will be required to receive the meningitis B vaccination.
Students at both universities have a list of required vaccinations that has long included the meningococcal conjugate vaccination, which protects against meningitis strains A, C, W, and Y. However, this left students unprotected against the B strain of meningitis, which accounts for 50 percent of all meningococcal cases in the U.S. and 100 percent of the college outbreaks since 2011. Alarmingly, in Indiana, 70 percent of meningitis cases are actually caused by meningitis B. To be fully immunized against the five most common types of the disease, both the MenACWY and MenB vaccinations are needed.
The Indiana Immunization Coalition, an Indianapolis-based organization dedicated to reducing the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization education, advocacy, promotion and statewide collaborative partnerships, applauds this important move by two of the state’s largest universities. The decision comes at a time when the Coalition has been partnering with pharmacies and universities across the state in the ‘Beware of B’ campaign to educate parents and students about the benefits of the meningitis B vaccination – available since 2014 – and to make it easy to obtain the important protection needed before heading to school in the fall.
“It is great to see some of the biggest universities in our state lead the way in protecting the health of our young people,” said Lisa Robertson, Executive Director of the Indiana Immunization Coalition. “It is my hope that other universities – big and small – across the state and the country will soon follow suit and require both meningitis vaccines. These diseases can be deadly. We encourage all parents and college students to ask their doctor for both lifesaving vaccines.”
Each year, approximately 1,000 people contract a form of meningococcal disease in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that among those who become infected, 10 to 15 percent will die. Of those who survive, another 20 percent will suffer from permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, loss of limbs, hearing loss and/or other serious impacts to the nervous system.
Students and young adults are among those most likely to contract meningitis B, especially in settings like college dorms where students are living in close proximity to each other and sharing drinks and food.
The Coalition encourages families to contact their family doctor, a local health department or a pharmacy to make an appointment and to be sure they have both meningitis vaccines in stock.