When three University of Wisconsin students were diagnosed with meningococcal disease serogroup B in October, the providers and staff at University Health Services worked with local, state and federal health officials to develop and execute a plan to vaccinate students who were at high risk of contracting the disease.
The health and safety of our campus community is most important to us. We are committed to ensuring that all students are able to receive both doses of the vaccine, and we want to provide clarification on why the second dose of meningococcal disease serogroup B vaccine is not offered widely on campus.
We received federal outbreak funding to assist with the cost of the first dose of Bexsero vaccine and UW covered the administrative costs. After administering the vaccine to more than 21,000 students, we were unexpectedly notified that this source of federal funding would not be available for additional doses.
We are grateful to our state and federal partners for making the vaccine available so quickly and to our students for getting vaccinated, both of which helped to significantly reduce the risk of meningococcal B disease on our campus. Within two weeks, the first dose of vaccine provides significant immunity to Meningitis B, and the second dose extends the duration of that immunity.
Since we were made aware that there was no funding for a second dose mass vaccination clinic, we have been working with health care providers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois to ensure that this vaccine would be available to students over winter break.
We have conducted a state-wide webinar for health care providers as well as contacted dozens of offices individually. Immunizations, including meningococcal B vaccine, are fully covered by most health insurance plans with no out-of-pocket cost. Nationally, providers have been contacted by the vaccine company. Providers are ready to provide these second dose vaccines to a vast majority of our students in the coming weeks. The vaccine is also available at retail pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS.
More than 95 percent of UW students have health insurance coverage, and the majority of students should be able to get their second dose of vaccine through an in-network home provider using their insurance benefits.
If it is not possible to get the vaccine at home, or if you do not have coverage for this vaccine through health insurance, the vaccine is available at UHS at no cost. No student who is at risk will be denied their second dose of vaccine.
Getting the first dose of vaccine against meningococcal disease B was an important step toward protecting your health and well-being. Receiving the second dose is just as critical to maintaining long-term immunity and protecting yourself from meningitis.
Our priority is to protect and promote student health. I encourage you to get your second dose during the semester break so you can be fully immunized. For more information, please visit https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/meningitis or email [email protected].
Dr. Sarah Van Orman is the Executive Director of University Health Services.