Worth faces shortage of meningitis vaccine, will offer new HPV vaccine

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Worth Health Center director Linda Echols thought she had plenty of the meningitis vaccine Menactra on hand, but when she looked closer earlier this summer she noticed that her supply had expired. When she called to order more, the outlook was not good–“There is a 2-3 month backlog,” Echols noted in an email, “so I’ll get mine sometime in September.”

Worth’s situation was not unique. Menactra, licensed by the FDA last year, provides about eight years more protection than previous vaccines and has been in extremely high demand. “The students we see were unable to get [the Menactra vaccine] at home because of shortages,” commented Echols.

Luckily, this shortage will have a relatively small effect on the Swarthmore community. Most students were vaccinated before arriving; of those who weren’t, the majority opted to receive Menomune instead, an older menigitis vaccine. Pennsylvania state law requires college students living in dorms to get a meningitis vaccine, or to sign a waiver saying that they understand the risks.

In other Worth news, the Gardasil vaccine will be offered at cost, for $135. Gardasil is the recently FDA-approved vaccine against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

Worth is also implementing a new program to care for intoxicated students, in order to have “a second set of eyes of the nurses,” said Echols. They plan on having a group of students on call between 1 and 4 A.M. When called, a student would come to Worth and watch over any intoxicated students, alerting nurses if need be. Students interested in participating should contact Linda at lechols1@swarthmore.edu.

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