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College-Bound Booster Shots

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Now that it is the middle of the summer, I find myself doing a lot of pre-college physicals.  If you have not scheduled your child’s check-up before heading back to school…this is your reminder!

I have been filling out varied college health forms and only a few of them have indicated that many adolescents need to have a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine.  This additional dose was recommended by the CDC in the fall of 2010.

Meningococcal bacteria can cause severe disease including meningitis and a bacterial blood infection called sepsis. In many cases this infection can lead to serious complications and even death.  This disease often begins with symptoms that are similar to many flu-like illnesses, which are frequently seen among college students. But unlike the flu this is a bacterial illness and quickly progresses and the student may already be quite ill before they even seek medical care.

The best way to treat this disease is to prevent it!!  Most adolescents receive their first dose of meningococcal vaccine when they are between 11-12 years of age.  When this vaccine was approved in 2005 it was thought that it would provide protection for at least 10 years. But further studies showed that some of the immunity provided by the vaccine seemed to diminish over time, especially during the later teen years when the risk of disease is the highest. By recommending a booster dose the vaccine will provide immunity throughout the college years.

With this new recommendation a student will need to have had 2 doses of meningococcal vaccine prior to entering college, unless their first dose was given after the age of 16 years.

If you haven’t gotten this vaccine make sure that you have had the correct dose or doses before college entry, even if your school doesn’t require it on your health form.  Tell your friends too as they may not realize this new recommendation, and by immunizing more adolescents (providing herd immunity) there is even less risk of contracting this devastating disease.

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat agaon tomorrow.

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