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CDC Solicits Feedback On New Vaccine

Ruby de Luna

National health officials were in Seattle yesterday as they consider a major decision on children's vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) took public input at a Shoreline conference center. This is the first time the CDC is gathering public input on childhood immunization. As KUOW's Ruby de Luna reports, the question before the CDC is whether to recommend meningitis vaccine for infants.


Right now, there are more than a dozen childhood vaccines routinely recommended for infants. Those vaccines protect babies from diseases that are common to children, like measles. The CDC is considering adding a new vaccine to that list. That vaccine would protect infants from meningococcal disease, a rare, but potentially fatal, infection.

Glen Nowak is with the CDC's National Immunization Program.

Nowak: "Some of these newer vaccines protect children against diseases that happen very, very rarely. But the problem is you can't predict which children would get those diseases and which children would suffer severe illness."

Meningococcal infection is caused by bacteria. It often affects the brain, spinal cord or blood stream. There are about 1,000 cases of bacterial meningitis in the US each year. About 250 of them are children under age five. Those who survive have long term disabilities, such as seizures or brain damage.

A new vaccine for babies came out in the market in April. Doctors may order it, but insurance won't cover the vaccine unless the CDC recommends it.

Katherine Hansen is a parent who came to the meeting. Two of her friends lost their children to meningitis. Because of that, she would want the vaccine for her own kids.

Hansen: "Unless I have cause to believe the vaccine is not safe, I would do it because I know the disease is so horrible and so severe that to me it's a logical decision there to make. You don't want to take a chance that something could happen."

The CDC says the meningitis vaccine for infants is safe. There are some side effects that include swelling and low grade fever.

Some parents believe those risks outweigh the benefits. Maria Rippo says it's part of the reason why she and her husband decided against vaccinating their four children.

Rippo: "Do we really know the long–term effects of the vaccination because we could actually effect negatively the health of millions of people by giving them that vaccination, but we don't know."

The committee making the decision on immunization will have to weigh these conflicting values. Seattle is one of four cities nationally where CDC officials are taking comments.

I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.

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