With limited ACIP nod, U.S. universities take different approaches to Pfizer, GSK MenB jabs

Back in June, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) widened its recommendation for meningitis B vaccines--but stopped short of recommending routine immunization. Instead, it left the decision to doctors and families whether young adults aged 16 to 23 should be vaccinated. Result? U.S. universities are taking varying approaches when it comes to MenB jabs and their students.

Some universities, like Providence College, are going all out. Two Providence students were hospitalized in February with meningitis and since then, more than 90% of students and certain staff have received the first dose of Pfizer's ($PFE) three-dose Trumenba regime, The Wall Street Journal reports. The college has also held vaccination clinics for first-years, mandating attendance, though the students could choose to opt out of vaccination.

Almost 75% of 1,040 eligible students are vaccinated, Kathy Kelleher, director of Providence College's student health center, told the WSJ.

Other universities are taking a limited tack, citing the ACIP recommendation as the reason. The University of Missouri at Columbia isn't stocking MenB vaccines, but if a student wants to get vaccinated, university doctors will write a prescription that can be filled at a pharmacy, according to the WSJ.

Older meningitis vaccines that protect against the A, C, W and Y strains have been in broad use in adolescents and young adults, and many states require college students to receive this vaccine. But the FDA didn't approve a vaccine for the MenB strain until 2014, and ACIP's first recommendation for Trumenba and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Bexsero was only for high-risk groups.

The University of Missouri's Susan Even told the WSJ that universities would be "much more likely" to stock up on MenB vaccines if the CDC had issued a stronger recommendation for their use. Even is also chairwoman of a vaccine committee at the American College Health Association.

ACIP--whose favor is usually needed to secure broad insurance coverage--could review the recommendation in the future, but in the meantime, the Pfizer and Glaxo vaccines are making progress with payers. A complete course of Bexsero or Trumenba costs more than $300, and most insurers already pay for the vaccines or are expected to begin covering them soon, the WSJ reported.

- here's the Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)

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