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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

New Meningitis Vaccine for High Risk Infants

By January 24, 2013

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There is good news for infants at high-risk for meningococcal infections.  They can now receive MenHibrix, a new vaccine that protects against both meningococcal groups C and Y  and Haemophilus B, as a 4-dose series between the ages of 6 weeks and 18 months.

Previously, these high-risk children would have to wait until they were at least 9 months old to be vaccinated with Menactra, which isn't approved for younger infants.

New recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices state that high-risk children who should receive MenHibrix include:

  • infants recognized with persistent complement pathway deficiencies
  • infants who have anatomic or functional asplenia, including sickle cell disease
  • infants in communities with serogroups C and Y meningococcal disease outbreaks

MenHibrix will not be routinely given to other infants who are not at increased risk for meningococcal disease.

Even bigger news though is the recent approval of Bexsero, a new vaccine that protects infants as young as two months old from meningococcal group B disease. Unfortunately, Bexsero has only been approved in the European Union and we still don't have a meningococcal vaccine that prevents group B disease in the United States. Our other meningococcal vaccines, including Menomune, Menactra, and Menveo, only protect against groups A, C, Y, and W-135.

When will Bexsero get approved in the United States so that we can help prevent the 65% of meningococcal cases infants that are caused by group B meningococcal infections? There is no official word on that, but since they may may be working to combine both Bexsero and Menveo into a single vaccine, it likely won't be very soon.

On the bright side, it sounds like all of the major types of meningococcal bacteria may soon be a vaccine-preventable disease that we no longer have to fear.

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