CDC s magical mystery tour: What s the deal with the meningitis vaccine?

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The CDC s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) seems to be delaying its decision on whether to approve a new meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine for infants younger than nine months. ACIP in an unprecedented move has announced its intent to host four public meetings over the summer in order to gain feedback from parents and health care providers on this decision. Bacterial meningitis is an uncommon but potentially lethal disease that infects the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The CDC has already acknowledged that the new vaccine would prevent approximately 75 of the 250 annual cases of meningitis among U.S. children under the age of five. While the vaccine can already be administered to adolescents and children as young as nine months (the FDA has already approved its use in this age group), the vaccination of younger infants will not be covered by insurance unless it is also added to the CDC s list of recommended immunizations for babies.

ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom is not sure why the CDC is holding these meetings. What do the people who will show up to these meetings know about which vaccine schedule is better? What is the point?," he asks. "I think ACIP will receive zero useful input from these meetings. ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees. The CDC is a scientific organization whose decisions are supposed to be based on epidemiology and a rigorous risk-benefit analysis," he says, "but now they are seeking an uninformed public opinion? I think it s just a stall tactic that has something to do with what seems like a path towards rationing.

ACSH s Cheryl Martin, however, adds that it is important for concerned parents to be included in such dialogues related to their child s well-being. "In doing so they become better informed of the benefits and risks of such measures and interventions. There is so much fear and misinformation about vaccinations that parents concerns need to be heard and adequately addressed," she says.