Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Minnesotans attending UW-Madison need second meningococcal B vaccine during winter break

Students urged to schedule an appointment with health care provider now.

Following recent cases of meningococcal disease at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, state health officials are urging undergraduate students who attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison to get a second dose of meningococcal B vaccine while they are home in Minnesota on winter break. Students or a parent should call their primary care provider now to schedule an appointment because many clinics may need to order the vaccine.

The meningococcal B vaccine UW-Madison students received for their first dose was called Bexsero, so they need to get this same vaccine for their second dose. When calling for an appointment, students who got one dose of Bexsero should say they were part of the UW-Madison outbreak and that they need to get their second dose of the meningococcal B vaccine called Bexsero. 

This recommendation comes after three cases of meningococcal disease (often called meningitis) were identified at UW-Madison in October. The three cases had the B strain of meningococcal disease. All were hospitalized and are now recovering.

UW-Madison and its partners set up vaccination clinics following the outbreak. They vaccinated about 70 percent of the school's undergraduate population with the first dose of meningococcal B vaccine, but students need two doses of Bexsero, given 1-2 months apart, to be fully protected.

Health officials estimate about 2,000 of the students who got their first meningococcal B vaccination are from Minnesota. Students have been instructed by UW-Madison University Health Services to get their second dose from their primary care provider over winter break.

UW-Madison students who have not received the first dose of meningococcal B vaccine yet are recommended to get it because they are considered part of an outbreak. They should talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated.

Most health insurance plans will cover the second dose of vaccine if a provider in the student's network gives the vaccine. Call the number on the back of the insurance card to find out if a clinic is in network.

The meningococcal B vaccine may be available at some pharmacies, but students should call ahead to see if the pharmacy has Bexsero. They should also call the number on the back of their insurance card to find out if it will be covered before going to the pharmacy.

"The meningococcal B strain is not included in the meningococcal vaccination regularly given to adolescents at 11-12 years of age with a booster dose at 16," said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health. "That is why so many students needed to get the meningococcal B vaccine at UW-Madison. To be fully protected, students home on winter break who have already had one dose need to schedule an appointment for their second dose."

Students are encouraged to bring documentation of the first meningococcal B vaccine they received. This could be the card given out at UW-Madison vaccination clinics, or by printing their vaccination record from the University Health Service MyUHS portal.

Ehresmann said because the meningococcal B vaccine is not typically given to all young adults right now, individuals age 16 through 23 years may want to talk to their health care provider about whether to get meningococcal B vaccine.

Free or low-cost shots are available for students who do not have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover the cost of vaccines. The Minnesota Vaccines for Children (MnVFC) program is for students through 18 years of age. Students can see if they're eligible at Can My Child Get Free or Low Cost Shots?. The Uninsured and Underinsured Adult Vaccine (UUAV) program is for students age 19 and older. Students can find participating clinics at Vaccination Clinics Serving Uninsured and Underinsured Adults.  

Meningococcal disease is a rare, serious illness caused by bacteria (Neisseria meningitidis). It can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord, and it can also cause blood infections. A person can become seriously ill very quickly.

Meningococcal is spread through contact with secretions from the nose and throat (e.g., saliva). It can be spread through things like kissing, sharing silverware, drinking from the same container or coughing.

For more information on meningococcal, see Meningococcal Disease.


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