Meningitis and My College-Bound Child: What Should I Know?


College-ChecklistNow that graduation season is behind us, 18-year-olds are crowding the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond, picking out extra-long twin sheets and mini fridges for their first year of college. Looking for tips on how best to organize your dorm room? Not sure how to deal with your future roommate’s body odor?

When it comes to freshman dorm feng shui, there are plenty of packing guides and advice columns to consult.

But all too often, these lengthy checklists fail to include an item that should top the to-do list of every college-bound student: vaccinations. If you haven’t done so, schedule a doctor’s appointment for your son or daughter. Meningitis immunization is invaluable to their health.

What are the different meningitis types? 

There are different types–referred to as ‘serogroups’–of meningitis. The standard vaccination, called meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), protects against four out of the five serogroups: A, C, W and Y. The CDC recommends that students receive the MenACWY vaccine before starting college, and, in some states, it’s required.

Which vaccines do students need?

Most college students receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, but not the vaccine that protects against the bacterial form of meningitis known as “serogroup B.” In recent years, several meningitis outbreaks on college campuses have been serogroup B outbreaks, which the standard MenACWY vaccine does not protect against.

The vaccine for serogroup B (MenB vaccine) has been available in the United States since 2014. Since the serogroup B vaccine is still relatively new, your medical provider may not carry it in their stock. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find vaccine serogroup B providers near you:

My child received the meningococcal conjugate vaccine as a teenager. Does she need to be vaccinated again?

The CDC recommends a booster shot for college-bound students who received their initial vaccine prior to their 16th birthday.

On college campuses that experienced meningitis outbreaks in recent years— everywhere from Yale and Princeton to Santa Clara State and Georgia Tech— students were only vaccinated after the outbreak hit. Surely, it is time for the meningitis B vaccine to be added to the CDC’s current vaccination recommendations.

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