Meningitis vaccination clinics returning to Matthew Knight Arena for final time

Meningitis B vaccinations continue this week, with vaccination clinics being offered on Monday and Tuesday from 12-8 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. These clinics will be the final school-sponsored event centered around the vaccine for the ongoing outbreak.

In 2015, seven University of Oregon students were diagnosed with the deadly disease, and one student died. The virus attacks the tissue around the brain, causing swelling of the tissue and spinal cord.

UO has been hosting vaccination clinics since March 2015 in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control, Oregon Health Authority and the Lane County Public Health Department. This will be the fourth clinic at the UO.

“I really encourage if you are in the middle of getting the vaccine series to finish it,” Dr. Richard Brunader said, medical director of the UO Health Center. “If you haven’t gotten it, I can’t strongly emphasize enough how important it is to do it.”

Besides administering the vaccine, the CDC is also studying the impact of the new vaccine. Classified as “serogroup B,” this vaccine is one of the first of its kind to be used in an outbreak, according to the CDC. In many ways, the outbreak at the UO is being used as a test case for future epidemics. The vaccine had just recently been licensed when the outbreak occurred.

“The reason we want to study this is that these new vaccines have become available, and we want to understand if use of the vaccine will impact carriers of this bacteria,” CDC Medical Epidemiologist Anna Acosta said. “One of the reasons we’re doing these evaluations is to understand how well the vaccines work. They’re so new; there’s not a lot of information on how effective they are in the long run.”

The CDC will conduct the study during the clinics. It’s voluntary, but involves only a few cheek swabs. They’re offering $5 Amazon gift cards as compensation.

The Oregon Health Authority is also conducting a survey of UO students and their responses to the clinics, such as what kind of students attended, why they attended and why they came back for the second round.

“The surveys are voluntary, but the information is very important,” said Emily Fisher, an epidemic intelligence officer at the Oregon Health Authority. “This information helps improve vaccination efforts, and basically we’re evaluating how effective the vaccination clinic is.”

The clinics this week are the final events encouraging students to vaccinate, although the university will still considered to be in an outbreak scenario until May.

“Really, the only way to know that we effectively intervened is by vaccinating,” Brunader said. “So, we’ve been fortunate that there have not been any new cases since students returned [this school year].”

While the bacteria that cause meningitis are harder to spread than a flu or cold, college students are their prime targets.

Acosta said this is “just because of close interaction, social interaction, sharing cups, kissing.”

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Noah McGraw

Noah McGraw

Noah is the 2016-17 Senior News Editor at the Emerald. His earliest journalistic influences were Tom Wolfe, Eric Schlosser and Batman. He loves '70s comics, '80s action movies and '90s music.