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CDC Recommends Meningitis Booster For 16 Year Olds

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Children of any age can get meningitis, but because it can be easily spread among people living in close quarters, teens, college students, and boarding-school students are at higher risk for infection.

On Wednesday, October 26, a panel of federal vaccine experts narrowly voted to add a booster dose of a meningitis vaccine to teens at age 16.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 6-5  to add a booster dose of the vaccine at age 16 to address waning immunity among older teens against meningococcal bacteria that causes meningitis. Three members abstained.

The CDC already recommends routine meningitis vaccination beginning at age 11.

The committee, which advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also recommended that adolescents who get the first dose of the vaccine at age 13 through 15 get a one-time booster dose five years later.

“We’re adding a booster because the current available data show that within five years, there is waning immunity,” said Alison Patti, a spokesperson with the CDC.

The panel had considered simply moving up the recommended vaccination age from 11 to 14 or 15, but that raised concerns among panelists and experts that many younger teens and at-risk youth would be left unprotected.

The National Meningitis Association said in a statement it supports ACIP’s 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.

“This is a good public health decision that will protect our children from meningococcal disease,” the group said, adding that it will support the changes in educational campaigns.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord, usually due to the spread of an infection. The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the “hallmark” signs and symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck in anyone over the age of 2.

Most cases of meningitis are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections also can lead to meningitis.

There’s no way to know what kind of meningitis you or your child has without seeing your doctor and undergoing spinal fluid testing.

•       Viral meningitis may improve without treatment in a few days.

•       Bacterial meningitis is serious, can come on very quickly and requires prompt antibiotic treatment to improve the chances of a recovery without serious complications. Delaying treatment for bacterial meningitis increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death. In addition, bacterial meningitis can prove fatal in a matter of days.

Also talk to your doctor if a family member or someone you work with has meningitis. You may need to take medications to prevent getting sick.

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