Massachusetts vaccinates students after meningitis B cases
Karly Fitzgerald, 22, a nursing student, administers a Meningitis B vaccine to fellow students on Friday as part of a clinic after 2 cases of the infection at the University of Massachusetts.Mary Detloff / University of Massachusetts
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Karly Fitzgerald is getting very good at giving vaccines.
The 22-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst figures she has given about 60 vaccines already on a Friday in early December. She’s one of many nursing students called in for duty as the school tries to vaccinate as many of its 30,000 students as possible against meningitis B.
“I definitely feel I am an expert at IM (intramuscular) injections now,” said Fitzgerald, a senior from West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
“Because the disease can be so serious, we have given antibiotics to people who had close contact with the two sick students,” the university said.
“These antibiotics will temporarily prevent those close contacts from also getting sick.”
The vaccine routinely given to teenagers only protects against types A, C, W and Y.
After an outbreak of meningitis B at Princeton University in 2013, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imported emergency doses of the meningitis B vaccine Bexsero — which at the time was not approved in the US. The FDA fast-tracked the approval of Trumenba in 2014, followed by Bexsero in 2015.
People need two doses at least 20 days apart to be fully protected and they need the same brand of vaccine for both doses.
Oregon State University has had five cases of meningitis B among its students in the past year.
“We are urging all students 25 and under to get vaccinated for this serious infection which can cause death in 10 percent of those who contract the disease and severe lifelong impairment including deafness, blindness, or loss of extremities in up to 20 percent of those afflicted,” the university says on its website.
“Oregon State requires incoming students under the age of 22 to have the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, which covers multiple strains of the disease but not the B strain,” it added.
“Starting this fall, the university also began requiring incoming students age 25 and under to receive the meningococcal B vaccine series due to three (now five) confirmed cases on campus during the last academic year.”
The CDC says symptoms of meningitis are usually sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. “It can start with symptoms similar to influenza (flu), and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, and confusion,” the CDC says.