Some Pittsburgh colleges recommend students receive meningitis B vaccine

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — Several area colleges now are recommending the meningitis B vaccine for students. The vaccine, just approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, is different from the one college students already get.

The news is encouraging to an Upper St. Clair family who has been pushing for the vaccine to become mandatory.

"We were on the turnpike on our way to Philadelphia when we got the call," said Steve Ross of Upper St. Clair. "It's not something I would wish on anybody."

Steve and Bev Ross lost their daughter Stephanie in 2014 to meningitis B. The Drexel University sophomore was thriving, but in a matter of hours, she fell gravely ill. Her parents were still driving to the hospital when she died.

"Had we known, or had the vaccine been available, it would have been a no-brainer," said Bev Ross.

This fall, for the first time, Duquense University, Carnegie Mellon University and Drexel University are recommending students get the meningitis B vaccine.

The vaccine college students already get covers meningitis A, C, W and Y. Doctors said the B strain is a fairly new topic for colleges.

"Although meningitis B outbreaks are not that common, you'd rather go to school being prepared," said Dr. Joseph Aracri of the Allegheny Health Network.

Still, the American College Health Association does not require all students to get vaccinated.

"The concern was that mass immunization when meningitis B is not that common, the expense would not outweigh the benefits," said Aracri. "My concern would be, one child who dies of meningitis that could have been prevented, is costly enough."

Aracri added he believes every family should ask their doctor if they have the vaccine and have their child vaccinated. Channel 11 learned most insurance companies now cover the cost, making the vaccine more widely available.

The Ross family has started the "Stephanie Ross Memorial Scholarship Fund" at Drexel University to keep their daughter's memory alive. Donations to the fund can be made by sending a check designated for the "Stephanie Ross Memorial Scholarship Fund" directly to the university.


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Her family is also spreading the word about the vaccine to make sure other families don't go through what they did.

"Parents still don't know," said Bev Ross. "They think their child is vaccinated against meningitis.  They don't know there's another vaccine.”