Pharmacists help to combat meningococcal disease

September 9, 2016

As bacterial meningitis spikes in certain regions of the U.S. and with more schools recommending vaccination, some pharmacy chains are helping to combat the disease.

As bacterial meningitis spikes in certain regions of the U.S. and with more schools recommending vaccination, some pharmacy chains are helping to combat the disease. There is an ongoing outbreak of meningococcal disease in Southern California, primarily among gay and bisexual men. Nine men in Los Angeles and Orange County contracted the disease in recent months, and one died. As a result, health officials in Southern California are urging all gay and bisexual men and HIV-infected people in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease with the MenACWY meningococcal vaccine. Some universities are also recommending or requiring the vaccination. For example, all Rutgers University–New Brunswick undergraduate students were required receive the first two doses of the meningitis B vaccine Trumenba after two of the college’s students had meningitis in the spring semester. The students have recovered, but CDC tests indicated that the disease could be active on campus. Plus, children entering Grades 7 and 12 in New York must be vaccinated against meningitis before returning to school under a new state requirement. Ohio recently implemented a similar mandate. The CDC also recommends that meningitis B vaccines, approved early last year, be given to provide short-term protection to anyone 16 to 23 years old. As a result, Walgreens-and perhaps other pharmacy chains- is now offering the meningitis B vaccinations at all of its pharmacies, including Duane Reade pharmacies in New York, and its Healthcare Clinics nationwide. Vaccinations are available daily without an appointment and may be covered by insurance. “We support the recommendations of health officials and stress that vaccination is the best protection against meningitis,” said Richard Ashworth, president of pharmacy and retail operations for Walgreens. “Walgreens pharmacists and Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioners continue to play an important role in providing more convenient access to vaccinations and other preventive services, and these new vaccines can be instrumental in helping to control meningitis.” Walgreens pharmacists and Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioners can administer the Bexsero or Trumenba vaccines in most states to individuals ages 10 through 25. “Meningitis spreads through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions and primarily affects adolescents and young adults. Teens and adults whose immunity has faded or live in close quarters, such as college dormitories, may also be at risk,” Walgreens said in a statement. According to the CDC, symptoms of meningitis usually are sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to the flu and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash and confusion. For Walgreens customers who are not sure whether or not they need the vaccine, “pharmacists will consult with patients to determine what vaccinations they may need based on a variety of factors (history, etc.), and pharmacists will make recommendations based from that consultation,” said Emily Hartwig-Mekstan, a spokesperson for Walgreens.