DENTON, TX - The Texas Teratogen Information Service (TTIS) Pregnancy Risk Line, a statewide non-profit organization based at the University of North Texas, Denton, and the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists’ Texas affiliate, has received a flurry of questions from pregnant students regarding the safety of the meningitis vaccine during pregnancy as new vaccine requirements go into effect.
Texas Senate Bill 107 made the meningitis vaccine a requirement for all college students beginning this year as a way to prevent the potentially fatal bacterial infection. The new law requires the vaccine be administered to college students within five years prior to college enrollment and at least 10 days before the first day of class.
“This is an important vaccine for students,” said Lori Wolfe, MS, CGC, a genetic counselor, who has a special focus in the area of birth defects prevention. Wolfe also serves as program director of TTIS Pregnancy Risk Line. “However, when it comes to getting the meningitis vaccine during pregnancy, not a lot is known. The meningococcal vaccine is not specifically recommended in pregnancy because it has not been well-studied,” explained Wolfe. “However, there is no data to suggest that this vaccine is harmful in pregnancy, which is why it’s so important to closely study it so that pregnant women and their health care providers can make the best choices for treatment and prevention in mothers and babies.”
Through evidence-based clinical information, TTIS Pregnancy Risk Line aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding through a toll-free helpline as well as observational research studies. The organization’s parent non-profit, the OTIS study group, is looking for the help of pregnant women to collect information on exposures like the meningitis vaccine in pregnancy, with a goal of enrolling pregnant women who have received the meningitis vaccine during pregnancy. The study will be ongoing through 2015.
“Anyone who’s had the meningitis vaccine anytime in pregnancy may qualify to participate,” said Diana Johnson, M.S., study manager for OTIS studies. However, even if they haven’t been exposed to the vaccine during pregnancy, pregnant women can still take part in the new study by enrolling as a comparison group participant. “Those who choose to share their pregnancy through this study will be helping to contribute to the overall published information in the future, helping a lot of future moms and babies,” explained Johnson. Participants will also receive a copy of the results of the study.
Meningococcal bacteria can cause severe disease, including meningitis and sepsis, resulting in permanent disabilities and even death. In addition to teens and young adults, other groups who may be at an increased risk of meningitis and are recommended to receive the vaccine include those who are living in close group quarters such as college freshmen living in a dormitory, military recruits, individuals who are traveling or residing in countries where the disease is common, and people in certain occupations or with certain kinds of immune disorders.
For questions or concerns about the meningitis vaccine during pregnancy or to volunteer in the study, please call TTIS Pregnancy Risk Line at (800) 733-4727. Outside of Texas, call OTIS counselors at (877) 311-8972 or visit MeningitisShotInPregnancy.org.
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