Portage County experiencing meningitis vaccine shortage

Heather Scarlett

Rose Ferraro, RN, BSN and Public Health Nurse demonstrates how she would vaccinate a patient for a meningitis shot at the Portage County Health Department in Ravenna. The Portage County Health Department dispenses only one meningitis vaccine, Menactra. AL

Credit: Steve Schirra

Death, hospitalization, fever, headache and a stiff neck are just some of the results of the disease meningitis, said Rose Ferraro, a nurse in the immunization section of the Portage County Health Department.

Meningitis, in basic terms, is an infection of the brain and spinal cord fluids that also involves sepsis, a blood infection.

The Portage County Health Department does offer vaccinations for meningitis, but is currently out and is waiting on back orders for the vaccine, Ferraro said.

The department can only order 20 doses of the vaccine a month, she said, though this doesn’t necessarily ensure that all 20 doses will be received.

Though the department tries to target college students, who are more susceptible to meningitis because they share living space, people who receive the vaccine who don’t necessarily need it can contribute to the recent shortage of the immunization available to students.

The health department offers two types of immunizations. Menactra, which is a “boostable” vaccine – meaning a person’s body will recall having the vaccination — lasts about 10 years, Ferraro said. It costs $94.45.

The second immunization shot is called Menomune, which is not a boostable vaccine and is not available at the Portage County Health Department. It costs $98.65 and lasts about five years, she said.

Iris Reed, a junior pre-business major, said she has lived in the residence halls for two years and has not had an injection. She doesn’t plan on getting one, though her parents recommended it.

“(Meningitis is) not that common,” Reed said.

Still, many think students should consider looking into vaccination.

“The students who are at a higher risk are those who live on campus,” Ferraro said.

Meningitis presents itself in the form of flu-like symptoms that “don’t go away,” she said.

If students wish to find out more about meningitis, they can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov.

Contact general assignment reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].