Meningitis Vaccine

Teenagers are at high risk for contracting bacterial meningitis. And parents may not realize there’s a newer stronger vaccine for the disease. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson reports.

There’s been some confusion about meningitis vaccines. A new version was released in 2005.
But supplies were low. So the CDC changed its recommendations for who should be vaccinated.

Dr. Amy Middleman is with the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research. She says the vaccine is back in full supply.

“This newer version creates a bigger immune response in the body. So it’s thought to produce a longer lasting immunity and also potentially will protect others in the community by something we call herd immunity and it may even eliminate the carriage state, which means it eliminate the bacteria from being carried around asymptomatically by people.”

The CDC recommends all children ages 11 and 12 get the vaccine. Teens between 13 and 18 should also get it if they haven’t already been vaccinated.

“Rates of meningococcal disease are actually highest in young children and babies. But there is another surge in cases during the adolescent years. And something that not many people realize is that adolescents are much more likely to die from this disease.”

No one knows for sure why teens are more susceptible. Middleman says it could be because they wait longer to get treated. There’s also some thought that teens often have weakened immune systems.

Middleman says some parents may think the vaccine is unnecessary.

“Vaccines are a victim of their own success, because people no longer see the terrible diseases that the vaccines prevent. And they only see the very rare instances of an adverse reaction that may or may not even be related to vaccine.”

The CDC and the Texas Medical Association recommend all teens be vaccinated against meningitis.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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