Four physician groups in Georgia will hand-deliver a letter to University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley Wednesday to urge him to encourage students to get a new meningitis vaccine.
The Georgia State Medical Association, Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Academy of Family Physicians and Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians want to make it clear that most teenagers and young adults are not protected against meningitis B.
Georgia law requires public and private university students living in on-campus housing to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, but it is likely that students are protected against just four of the five strains of meningitis.
Meningitis B protection requires a separate, relatively new vaccine.
“Many of our students are likely vulnerable to meningitis B because it requires a separate vaccination in addition to the so-called ‘meningitis conjugate vaccine,’ which protects against the other serogroups – A, C, W, and Y,” the groups wrote in the letter to Chancellor Wrigley. “Because meningitis B vaccinations have only been recently developed, Georgia law does not yet specifically stipulate that students receive a meningitis B vaccine in addition to the conjugate vaccine, nor has the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued a strong recommendation behind it, which would greatly increase the likelihood that physicians would proactively offer it to college students.”
Bacterial meningitis, the most dangerous form of meningococcal disease, tends to spread in close quarters, making college settings such as classrooms and dormitories a potentially ideal environment for outbreaks.
Meningitis can result in death, brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities, but is also particularly dangerous because it progresses quickly, yet symptoms can be easily mistaken for the flu.
Meningitis B is common among young people, and it's led to several outbreaks on college campuses nationwide.