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Use New Meningitis Vaccines Sparingly, Panel Advises

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Two new meningitis vaccines just approved should only be used for vulnerable people and during outbreaks and not be given routinely to teens and college students, a federal panel of experts said Thursday.

It's a decision certain to anger parents who had been lobbying for wider use of the two vaccines, which protect against a strain of meningitis called meningitis B.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved two vaccines against the B strain of Neisseria meningitides — Trumenba and Bexsero. But insurance companies usually will not pay for vaccines unless they are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the meningitis B vaccines can cost $300.

ACIP voted to advise the vaccines be used to control outbreaks and to protect people who are unusually vulnerable, such as people with immune deficiencies.

Bacterial meningitis is a rare but dangerous infection that kills 10 percent of those who get sick and can cause permanent disabilities in 20 percent. Teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable and health officials recommend that all college students receive U.S.-licensed vaccines that protect against four strains of meningitis, but not B.

The B strain is rare but there have been several recent outbreaks, including at Yale University, the University of Oregon and Providence College in Rhode Island. Bexsero was given to thousands of U.S. college students after outbreaks at Princeton and the University of California Santa Barbara.

IN-DEPTH:

-- Maggie Fox

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