By: Gardiner Harris
27 October 2010
ATLANTA – Federal vaccine advisers recommended on Wednesday that 16-year-olds be given a booster dose of a vaccine against meningococcal meningitis and that people ages 11 to 64 get a booster to protect against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus.
The reason for the meningitis recommendation is that two popular vaccines against the disease do not seem to work as well as hoped. Instead of providing 10 years of protection, they may work for only five years or less.
That is not long enough to protect teenagers and young adults through the riskiest years because the vaccine is usually given at 11 or 12 years of age. The hope is that a booster dose at 16 would yield protection through the first few years of college, when outbreaks occur most often.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices debated whether to recommend that the first dose simply be delayed by three or four years or to add a second dose. The vaccine is about $100 a dose, and the disease is rare. So adding a second dose ensures that every death averted would be expensive. Federal officials estimated that while the current strategy prevents 9 deaths each year, delaying the first dose would prevent 14 deaths and adding a second dose would prevent 24.