Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed February 26, 1998
Contact: Mark Nickel

Brown to offer meningitis vaccination clinics on campus in March

Brown University will offer meningitis vaccinations to Brown students 22 years of age or younger at vaccination clinics in March. The vaccine will be provided to the University at no cost by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University will offer free meningitis vaccinations to students 22 years of age or younger at campus vaccination clinics in March. The following letter from Brown University Health Services is being placed in all student mailboxes and will be available Friday morning, Feb. 27, 1998.

Dear Brown Student,

In light of the recent press coverage about meningococcal disease and the current Rhode Island Department of Health recommendation to consider vaccination, we would like to present you with pertinent factual information and well-considered recommendations. We hope this letter will guide you in making your own decision about the need for vaccination. In this letter we also outline Brown's plan to provide access to vaccination for those who elect to be vaccinated.

The Rhode Island Department of Health has stated that there is not currently an outbreak of meningococcal infection in Rhode Island. There has, however, been an increase over the last few years of the number of sporadic cases of meningococcal infection in Rhode Island, with 13 cases and four deaths so far in 1998. Over the last five years, there has also been a general increase in the number of outbreaks on college campuses in the United States, with 13 outbreaks in schools, universities, and other organizational-based settings since 1992. The recent cases of meningococcal disease in Rhode Island have prompted the Rhode Island Department of Health to encourage individuals ages 2 to 22 years to consider receiving meningococcal vaccine. We at Health Services support this recommendation.

We hope the following information will enable you to make a considered decision about meningococcal vaccination.


Marlene T. Eckerle, M.D.
University Health Services
Assistant Clinical Professor
Brown University Medical School
Edward A. Wheeler, M.D.
University Health Services
Assistant Clinical Professor
Internal Medicine
Brown University Medical School

Questions and answers

What is meningococcal infection?

Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. N. meningitidis is the second most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States, affecting approximately 3,000-4,000 people each year, and causing death in approximately 13 percent of cases. N. meningitidis also causes other forms of meningococcal disease, such as meningococcemia (infection in the blood) which causes death in 20 percent of cases. Infection is transmitted by prolonged contact with persons infected with the disease, through the air via sneezing or coughing. Initial symptoms may include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting or lethargy. The infection progresses rapidly, and students experiencing two or more of these symptoms concurrently are urged to seek medical attention immediately.

What is my risk?

In the United States, the risk of meningococcal disease is low for individuals 10 years of age and older (less than one case per 100,000 people) compared to the risk for children younger than 4 years of age (eight cases per 100,000 people). There is some evidence that living in close quarters increases risk for transmission.

How will the vaccine help?

Vaccination against meningococcal infection provides protection within seven to 10 days and lasts for three years against serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135. These four strains of N. meningitidis bacteria account for about 50 percent of meningococcal infections in the U.S.

What are the limitations of the vaccine?

Vaccination against meningococcal infection lasts for only three years. Vaccination against meningococcal infection fails to produce protection in 10 to 15 percent of people vaccinated. This vaccine provides no protection against infection with N. meningitidis serogroup B, which causes approximately 50 percent of meningococcal infections in the U.S.; currently there is no vaccine against serogroup B.

Who may not receive the vaccine?

Persons who are acutely ill or are pregnant should not receive the vaccine. Individuals known to be sensitive to Thimerosal may not receive the vaccine. Persons receiving immunosuppressive therapy may not experience full immune benefit from the vaccine.

How much does it cost?

The Rhode Island Department of Health is currently negotiating supply of vaccine in the state. The vaccines will be paid for by the state and will be distributed at no cost to patients age 2 to 22.

How do I get vaccinated?

If you are a Brown University student, age 22 years or younger, Health Services will offer vaccination by appointment only. Dates for the clinics will be announced when the vaccine is made available to us by the state. We estimate that this will occur in mid- to late March, as the early efforts by the state will be targeting the vaccination of young children.

Because the state is supplying us with vaccines specifically for Brown students, we are unable to accommodate faculty, staff, their families, or families of Brown students. Faculty and staff should consult their personal physicians about whether and how to obtain vaccination for themselves or their children.

How do I get more information?

A recorded informational message is available at 863-7240; we will update the information as necessary. If you have additional questions, you may call Health Services at 863-1330.