Another Shot for Baby?

Chicago Debates New Baby Vaccine

By Bob Ray
|  Friday, Jul 22, 2011  |  Updated 11:48 AM CDT
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Chicago parents and pediatricians urge the CDC to recommend new vaccines against meningitis for infants.

Chicago parents and pediatricians urge the CDC to recommend new vaccines against meningitis for infants.

In the next year, many infants may require a new vaccine.   It's to prevent meningitis, a rare but highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.

The two highest risk groups for meningitis are teens and infants.  Right now, it's one of the vaccines that the Centers for Disease Control recommends for adolescents, beginning at age 11.. But there's been no recommendation yet for babies and toddlers, except in contagious environments.

So this week, Chicago area parents and pediatricians filled a hearing room to urge the CDC to add infant meningitis vaccinations to it's normal schedule of vaccines for children.

A CDC recommendation is essential in order for insurance companies and government health agencies to pay for the vaccinations, which can cost several hundred dollars  for each child.

And it's money that is at the root of the controversy.  The head of the CDC has openly questioned whether the vaccine is too expensive to recommend for all children.  And at the hearing this week, CDC pediatrician Amanda Cohn said meningitis appears to be less deadly for infants than it is for teenagers.

"There are obviously struggles when you thing about how much these vaccines will cost compared to how much disease they will prevent," she said about the infant vaccines.

But many in the audience, including those belonging to a pro-vaccine group called Meningitis Angels, said you can't put a price tag on a babies life.

"I don't know any parent who can look at you and say it's ok for your child to die, because it's not OK, ever." said Samantha Wolf,  a member of the group.   Wolf's son died of meningitis, just six weeks after birth. 

The Chicago hearing was one of just four being held around the country by the CDC.  A decision on the infant vaccines is not expected until next year.

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