Health Care Reporters: CDC to Pull Plug on Meningitis Vaccine Over Cost?

Published May 24, 2011

I am writing to alert you to a story that has been grossly under-reported but is vitally important to infant health and the fight against meningitis.

Meningitis is a rare disease, but it’s a leading cause of preventable deaths in infants. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved a new vaccine for infants and will soon approve more. These vaccines were created after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) pushed strongly for eradicating the disease roughly a decade ago. In doing so, the United States is following the successful example of the United Kingdom, which has virtually eradicated the disease with mass vaccination.   

Yet in the wake of dropping meningitis rates in the U.S., the authorities in Washington and Atlanta appear to be reconsidering their cost-effectiveness analysis of these vaccines. The CDC historically never has chosen to not recommend a vaccine for children that has been approved as safe by the FDA, but in this case ACIP seems to be dragging its feet.

On Wednesday, May 25, the CDC is hosting a national “stakeholder” meeting in Washington, DC to discuss issues surrounding future access to these new infant meningococcal vaccines. The meeting has not been announced to the press or the public, and the CDC’s Web site offers not a shred of information about it.

As Benjamin Domenech, The Heartland Institute’s research fellow for health care policy, reported in today’s [] Washington Examiner: “The CDC is also quietly planning a series of four ‘public’ meetings around the country to decide whether to recommend the vaccine and put it on the infant schedule. These meetings are expected to take place in New Hampshire, Colorado, Illinois, and Washington state over the summer—but like the national stakeholder meeting, no information is publicly available.”

We at The Heartland Institute worry that this might be the first use of cost-effectiveness analysis to block widespread use of a life-saving vaccine. If you are interested in reporting on this under-the-radar story, we invite you to contact health care policy experts at The Heartland Institute who have been following it closely:

Benjamin Domenech
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Health Care News
[email protected]

Dr. Richard Dolinar
Senior Fellow for Health Care Policy
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

Email Tammy Nash at [email protected] or Jim Lakely at [email protected] or call 312/377-4000 to schedule an interview with Domenech or Dolinar or contact them directly.

The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at or call 312/377-4000.