Should I get a meningitis vaccince?
July 18, 2019 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Part time adult student, should I get the meningitis vaccine? I'm a part time grad student / full time worker, and in my 40s - I'll be attending 2 night classes in the fall at a new school. For my immunization record, I have all the required vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella) but then there is a separate page for the meningitis vaccine.

I have not had that vaccine, but its not a necessary vaccination (there is a box to opt out). However, I could go ahead and get it anyway, of course - I am not opposed to doing so.

Just curious if its worth doing so as a relatively healthy early 40s person who won't be living in dorms or anything, or if I shouldn't worry about it.
posted by RajahKing to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
While there's no particular reason not to get it, my understanding is that the reason why students generally get a meningitis vaccine is that the close quarters of dorm living put them at an elevated risk. So if you're not living on campus you can probably skip it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:54 AM on July 18, 2019

I'm assuming US based on your location in your profile. The meningitis vaccines in the US (standard Menacqwy as well as the serogroup B vaccine) is specific to N meningitidis, which is spread by saliva. It's really only recommended for people living in dorm settings (college, military).

If you are planning on kissing other students or eating off their unwashed dishware, you'd be at risk. Personally, absent a significant unstated other risk factor, I'd skip it.

This is not medical advice.
posted by basalganglia at 9:26 AM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Meningitis vaccine > meningitis.

I'd get it.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

seriously, just get it.
posted by evilmonk at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

You’re not within the recommended groups for adult administration of either of the meningococcal vaccines, unless you have a rare circumstance you haven’t mentioned.

It won’t hurt of course (in the larger health sense; it WILL hurt in the literal sense, if my teenagers’ experience is anything to go by) but even as a person who likes vaccines a whole lot, I’d say this isn’t necessary.

(Note that if you were an adolescent or young adult, the recommendations would be different.)
posted by lakeroon at 11:50 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is amazing how much there's still "I got a cookie and don't want all of it, want the rest?" or "hey, this beer is great, want to try it?" there still is in grad school. I'd get it.
posted by joycehealy at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would also be in camp get the vaccine, just based on what I have seen of handwashing habits out in the real world. Meningitis is spread via saliva and respiratory excretions. That is, spit and snot.

Jack sneezes into his palm, rubs most of it on his pants, walks into a room and shakes your hand.

Gross, right? What's even more gross is you take that freshly shaken hand and eat something. In a perfect world I would be able to avoid hand shaking and/or wash my hands after every shake. Neither of those things is feasible.

Remember that people can carry the bacteria without themselves being sick or symptomatic. You can't avoid meningitis by avoiding people who seem like they have it. You increase your odds of avoiding it by being vaccinated. You also protect those around you by getting the vaccine because even if exposure to meningitis doesn't make you sick, you carrying the bacteria could make someone else sick.
posted by bilabial at 2:20 PM on July 18, 2019

Meningococcus is not nearly as contagious as bilabial suggests; if it were, we'd all be screwed, because people are indeed terrible about (not) washing their hands. The meningococcal vaccine is effective for about 3-5 years, so if it were something that all adults were persistently at risk for, we'd need regular boosters, the same way we all need a tetanus/diphtheria booster every 10 years, or a flu shot yearly.

Luckily, unlike tetanus or the flu, meningococcus doesn't survive long outside the host and requires lots and lots of particles to actually cause disease. Hence the focus on first-year college students living in dorms -- meningococcus, more than mono, is the kissing disease.

When the CDC makes specific, as opposed to general, recommendations, it's because the groups outside those recommendations are considered low-enough risk that the even the baseline low rate of vaccination-related adverse events are not worth it. Check with your own doctor, of course, but even I -- extremely pro-vaccine -- wouldn't get this for myself to cover a couple of night classes. At 40, you're edging closer to risk of Listeria meningitis than meningococcal meningitis -- so in addition to avoiding everyone else's spit and half-empty beers, watch out for deli-sliced meats and cheeses!
posted by basalganglia at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

It was optional for me in grad school, and I didn't get it. Then, there was an outbreak of meningitis in the unsanitary hellhole of tents of students camping out for basketball tickets while I was a TA (with students who lived in the tents in my classes), and I really wished I had gotten it.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:13 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Toxicologist and vaccine developer here. The list of reasons to avoid any given vaccine is exceptionally small. Download the product's package insert. If you have any specific contraindications, that will let you know. I'm happy to fill in any information gaps if you have specific questions, as can your doctor.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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