Starting next year, some families whose children who have not gotten enough of the vaccine against meningitis C might be able to skip their current schedule and instead receive the COVID-19 meningitis vaccine twice a year.
That’s the prospect outlined in a report released Thursday by Pfizer Inc., which said its meningitis vaccine, COVID-19, has met the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be considered a lifesaving vaccine, which is meant to be applied to children in age groups 5 through 11.
Pfizer submitted a marketing application for the COVID-19 meningitis vaccine in October 2015, but the submission was not accepted until this January. The C. difficile outbreak that year in which patients were infected with meningitis C caused another surge of interest in the issue, said Dr. David Nieman, a cancer epidemiologist at University of Pennsylvania, who is not affiliated with the report. The FDA requested more information about this vaccine and its coverage in children ages 5 to 11 before the application could be submitted, Pfizer said.
“Right from the get-go, we recognized that there were ongoing meningitis outbreaks and there was a continuing need for more vaccines,” Nieman said.
Dr. Jane Seward, director of the global meningitis B program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC has been working with Pfizer for years to identify treatment and prevent strategies for meningitis C. Seward said health departments may make decisions about whether to continue administering COVID-19 and the CBIA vaccine, another meningitis C vaccine recommended by the CDC.
“Since the availability of the CBIA vaccine, we’ve seen cases of meningitis C in children drop by about 70 percent,” Seward said. “The results of the COVID-19 meningitis vaccine’s efficacy and safety demonstrate the importance of the CBIA vaccine in providing two doses of meningitis C vaccine to kids.”
Children who received the COVID-19 meningitis vaccine’s first dose will see an immediate 50 percent decrease in the risk of meningitis C, Pfizer said. The vaccine’s effectiveness — or its ability to eliminate the disease — is estimated at 75 percent within three months of vaccination. And children who receive the second dose will see a 50 percent decrease in their risk of meningitis C.
What happens to families who get a prescription to vaccinate children against meningitis C is usually unrelated to the actual vaccine or to side effects, Pfizer said.