Pros and cons of the meningitis booster shot recommendation for 16-year-olds

For a number of years, I’ve been recommending the meningitis vaccine for kids at 10 to 11 years of age. I’ve always told parents, right now it looks like it will just take a single vaccination, but, in the future, we may see a recommendation for a booster. Now, that prediction has come true.

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee on Wednesday recommended that adolescents receive a booster shot of the meningitis vaccine at age 16.”

Three years ago, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices “recommended that the vaccine be given routinely to children at the age of 10 or 11, primarily in an effort to protect them as they enter college and the military.”

The scientific community had thought that “two popular vaccines against the disease” would provide “10 years of protection,” according to the New York Times.

However, it actually turns out “they may work for only five years or less. That is not long enough to protect teenagers and young adults through the riskiest years,” but a “booster dose at 16 would yield protection through the first few years of college, when outbreaks occur most often.”

That explains the impetus behind the “6-5” vote that led to the current suggestion, MedPage Today reported. But, “some of the panel members opposing the recommendation would have preferred simply delaying the initial dose until age 14 or 15, in part because of the cost.”

Others “at the meeting wondered if it was even necessary to make such a decision,” considering that “cases of bacterial meningitis are at historic lows,” HealthDay reported.

What’s more, “a US Food and Drug Administration official, Norman Baylor, said more studies about the safety and effectiveness of a second dose of the vaccine are needed.”

Nevertheless, “in a news release issued after the vote, the National Meningitis Association said it ‘supports [the] decision to maintain meningococcal immunization at age 11-12 and to add a booster dose to provide increased prevention of disease among adolescents throughout their high-risk years.'”

The AP also covers the story.

My recommendation, if you can afford the vaccine, get your kids immunized against meningococcal meningitis at age 10 and have them take the booster dose at age 16.

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