Officials say the public health threat of meningitis isn't high enough to justify the widespread use of a vaccine approved for use in the United States in 2014.
But that has done little to appease thousands of parents and students at Santa Clara University, where three students have been infected with the potentially deadly disease and hundreds more have waited hours for emergency vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issues annual guidance on vaccines, has only recommended doctors talk about the vaccine with patients and their parents. But the so-called MenB vaccine — named for the B group strain of the infection — isn't routinely administered along with the standard meningitis shot, which covers four other strains of the disease, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bayareane.ws/1Xb0orL).
Doctors say that's because it's a relatively new vaccine, it's expensive and it doesn't last forever.
The scare at Santa Clara University this week is only the latest example of the potentially deadly infection known to surface on college campuses and military bases — or anywhere people live and socialize in close quarters.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious disease at UC Davis School of Medicine, said the question over whether to standardize the MenB vaccine led to heated discussions within the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Those against widespread use cite a low number of meningococcal infections in the U.S., he said.
Others say the vaccines are expensive and clumsy to administer, requiring multiple doses spread over a month.
The CDC recommendation lets people know that the vaccine exists, and that, for some people, it's an important precaution to take.
Plenty of students were taking that to heart at Santa Clara University, where more than 4,000 students received shots last week.
Elizabeth Maulick, whose 19-year-old son, Gregory, started at Santa Clara University in September, was furious to discover this week that her son's vaccine regimen didn't include the shot for the strain of the potentially deadly disease.
"It freaks me out -- it's very scary," said Maulick, a real estate agent in Palo Alto. "And if, in fact, a vaccine could help, why didn't I know about it?"
The university extended its free vaccine clinic to Saturday and it plans to offer them on Monday.