New meningitis vaccine now available for Yale community

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Starting Tuesday, a recently approved vaccine will be available to the Yale community after an undergrad was diagnosed with strain B meningitis. Two other cases were reported in Connecticut back in 2012. Yale is among the first institutions to offer one of two new vaccines now available.

The Yale undergraduate who tested positive for meningitis has been discharged from the hospital and reportedly is making good progress.

Yale is among the universities and colleges requiring incoming freshmen living on campus to get the meningitis vaccine. Until recently, the only meningitis vaccine available in the U.S. covered only four of the five strains that can lead to an outbreak.

“Now that we are seeing less of these other strains with the vaccine, I think we are recognizing maybe more of the strains that are circulating might be ‘B’ ones,” said Dr. Louise Dembry

Yale Health Clinic has ordered up one of the two vaccines recently approved by the FDA to protect against the “B” strain, for anyone in the Yale community. It’s made by Novartis, requiring two shots at least a month apart.

People ages 16 to 21, living in close quarters, are more at risk to contracting the potentially deadly disease.

“The way this organism is transmitted, you have to have direct contact, close contact with the individual,” said Infectious Disease Professor Dr. Dembry with Yale School of Medicine. “Generally, they are respiratory droplets or their saliva.”

So far, there’s only been one case on this Ivy league campus. Students are still processing whether to get the strain B shot.

“We’ve gotten e-mails about the student who got meningitis, but they say they have it under control, so I’m not to sure about the vaccine aspect yet,” said Yale freshman Jennifer Peng.

“I’m actually on the basketball team and my teammates were talking about it,” said Yale sophomore Lena Munzer. “It’s definitely scary when something like that hits home with you, so I’m definitely taking in consideration of having it, but I haven’t yet definitely for sure made any plans.”

“Right now, as far as the situation that’s going on at Yale University, I don’t think that transmission is probably been very highly unlikely, but those who are at that high risk age group may see it again, and so because there are sporadic cases, I don’t think it hurts to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Dembry.

The new vaccine is free to those covered by Yale Health. Others will have to use their private insurance or pay the out of pocket costs of $256.

The CDC is meeting this month. The hope is the panel of experts will issue a list of recommendations so both type B meningitis vaccines will be more widely available.

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