Next Tuesday, the fractious debate about the inclusion of meningitis vaccinations in the recommended set of infant shots will land north of Seattle in Shoreline, Wash.The Centers for Disease Control is on a four-city tour to field public comment from doctors, healthcare workers and parents and the Shoreline meeting July 12th is the next stop after the initial meeting last month in Concord, N.H.

The CDC is considering a policy that would add three or four doses of meningococcal vaccine to the series recommended for infants. Those doses would be in addition to those already recommended for older children and young adults. The purpose of meeting such as the one next week in Seattle is to solicit feedback from all of the stakeholders affected. One group raising intense opposition is formed by parents of autistic children, some of whom believe early vaccinations may be a cause of the condition.

Taking place as it will where the ideals of progressive politics, alternative medicine and childless living cross-pollinate, the Seattle meeting could be a flashpoint in the vaccination debate, fed by well-organized opposition from anti-vaccination activists.

Though the preponderance of medical opinion and research has long concluded that there is no link between vaccination and autism, it is certainly a parent’s prerogative to retain skepticism as a bulwark against making misinformed choices. That skepticism has a strong voice in the form of Generation Rescue, the group rallied to action by via spokeswoman and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, also the mother of an autistic son.

But while McCarthy’s well-intentioned army of anti-vaxers peacefully push against the effort to put the meningitis vaccine into the standard toolkit for fighting lethal and infectious disease, children are risk from the illness. Cherylyn Harley LeBon writes at Red County:

Annually, there are more deaths from meningitis than there are from mumps, rubella and rotavirus disease-other infections for which infants currently receive vaccinations.  The disease can strike healthy babies suddenly, without warning, and has the potential to kill in as fast as four hours.  Of those who survive, one is six will suffer limb amputation, paralysis, seizure, stroke, hearing loss, blindness, organ damage, severe scarring or brain damage.

Harley LeBon–mother, attorney and former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee–is circulating  a petition to tell the CDC to move forward with a policy to recommend the vaccine. Her desire is that the CDC puts science ahead of populist outrage when formulating its public health policy. She writes:

[L]et’s pray that the CDC, as it considers whether to recommend meningitis vaccines for infants, makes its decisions based on sound science, not the erroneous claims of the anti-vaccine movement.


[photo credit: flickr]