Meningitis survivor advocates against changing vaccine schedule

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The CDC issued a health advisory warning after increase in cases of invasive meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis causes swelling around the brain and spinal cord.

“Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that is spread through things like respiratory droplets. So for instance, if we cough or if we sneeze. It also spreads through sharing of utensils, kissing, sharing a soda bottle,” said nurse practitioner Dr. Wendy Wright.

“Adolescents are at a particular risk just because of the activities that they are engaging in.”

In 2005, Jonathan DeGuzman was a college student when he was infected with meningitis.

He said he felt flu-like symptoms and took at nap.

“The next thing I remember, it was 12 days later, I woke up from a coma. And doctors were just, all over the place and just trying to save my life. And they said that they needed to amputate all 10 of my fingers and both of my feet. So just to save my life.”

Dr. Wright said the bacteria can spread quickly, it “can take a healthy adolescent and within 24 hours, it can be fatal.”

The CDC recommends the meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine for all preteens and teens.

The current vaccine schedule recommends 11 to 12-year-olds should get a MenACWY vaccine, with a booster shot at 16 years.

“We get that second shot to provide additional protection through those years where they’re heading off to maybe what we call communal living in a dormitory or even in apartments where they participate in activities that put them at risk,” explained Dr. Wright.

However, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) could vote on possibly revising the vaccine schedule and eliminate the booster shot.

“Jonathan and I feel very strongly,” Dr. Wright disagrees with the proposal.

“We have seen a 90% decline in the cases of bacterial meningitis since the introduction of this vaccination schedule.”

She argues eliminating the booster shot could leave a group of adolescents unprotected.

“The risks start to increase in that adolescent period OF 14-15 years old. Think about what people are doing at 14 to 15. They are sharing utensils or water bottles that puts these individuals at risk.”

Jonathan was not vaccinated against the disease and wants parents to do the research before making a decision.

“I wasn’t even aware that there was a vaccine available and had I known that it was I would have gotten vaccinated,” he said.

“I think right now, my job is just to really educate the community that the vaccine is available and to talk to your primary care doctor about, you know, if their vaccine is available for their children.”

ACIP could vote on the proposal by February 2025.

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