Meningitis Vaccine Being Under Used - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/10/07

Meningitis Vaccine Being Under Used

School is underway and for some students, that meant a long list of immunizations. College students can add one more to the list, a vaccine for meningococcal meningitis.

Memorial Health's director of Infectious Diseases Mary McNally, said it's a must have before you can even start most universities. "They just live in very close proximity to each other and share personal items. So the risk of them acquiring and transmitting the illness to each other is very, very high amongst college students," she explained.

Pediatrician Dr. Ben Spitalnick believes the vaccine should be required for all kids, ages 11 and up. The illness can spread quickly through a classroom, dorm room or even a day camp. "It's not so much the contagious nature of the disease that's a problem, it's how quick it hits you. From the on-set of symptoms, like fever, to the rash, and later morbidity, it can be hours. Or it can be less than a day," Dr. Spitalnick explained.

Angela Kirkland is a nurse and a mom with two teenage girls. She didn't take any chances and had both her daughters vaccinated. "I'd rather be safe than sorry," Kirkland told us. "Especially with one going off to college and being in a dorm room, in close proximity to other students."

But most parents aren't getting the vaccination because it isn't required by elementary, middle or high schools and because insurance doesn't cover it. But McNally says that shouldn't stop them from getting it, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Long term disabilities from bacterial meningitis include neurological disorders, amputation and even death. "If you have a vaccine that can prevent a devastating illness, it only makes sense we should be administering it to our children," she exclaimed.

If you'd like for your child to have the vaccine, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor. They usually start administering it at ages 11 and older.

Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com

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