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BALTIMORE -- The American College Health Association (ACHA) today issued a stronger meningococcal disease vaccination recommendation that will help ensure all first-year students living in residence halls are immunized with a reformulated meningococcal vaccine recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
ACHA's decision is consistent with recent recommendations approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to immunize all incoming college freshmen living in dormitories (or residence halls) against meningococcal disease.
The new recommendations strengthen ACHA's previous recommendations, which until now only encouraged health care providers to educate college students, particularly first-year students who plan to live in residence halls, and their parents about meningococcal disease and the potential benefits of vaccination.
ACHA and ACIP's new recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.
"ACHA is pleased that a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine is now
available and that ACIP provided a firm recommendation for immunization of
first-year students living in residence halls," said James Turner, MD, chair
of ACHA's Vaccine Preventable Diseases Committee and executive director of the
department of student health at the University of Virginia. "This is a
significant step in preventing meningococcal disease and will help college
health professionals protect college students against this potentially deadly
The new conjugate vaccine (unlike the previously recommended
polysaccharide vaccine) has the potential to provide longer duration of
protection and herd immunity against meningococcal infection; which means that
by immunizing a large proportion of the population, even those who are not
vaccinated will likely be protected. The FDA approved the vaccine for use
among persons aged 11 to 55 years.
ACHA and ACIP's new recommendation, coupled with the availability of the
conjugate vaccine, will help increase rates of immunization against
meningococcal disease, and will provide college health professionals the
guidance needed to help protect college students against meningococcal
ACHA has been at the forefront of protecting college students against
meningococcal meningitis. In 1997, the association released the first
recommendations, stating that students consider vaccination and that college
health professionals take a proactive role in providing information and access
to the meningococcal vaccine.
In addition to the new college vaccination recommendations, the CDC's ACIP
also approved recommendations that target routine meningococcal immunization
for young adolescents at the pre-adolescent visit (11-12 year olds) and
adolescents at high school entry.
Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial
infection that strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible
for approximately 150 to 300 deaths. Adolescents and young adults account for
nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In
addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on
college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result.
Due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar
patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing
personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to
acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population.
Meningococcal infection is contagious, particularly in crowded conditions
such as residence halls at colleges or universities. Symptoms may include
fever, stiff neck, rash, nausea, and vomiting. The disease progresses very
rapidly and can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu. Students should seek
medical attention if any of these symptoms are present and unusually sudden or
If not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent
disabilities. One in five of those who survive will suffer from long-term
side effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, or limb
Source: American College Health Association