The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced its plan to extend the recommendation for meningococcal group B vaccination to adolescent children and young adults between the ages 16 and 23 years old.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to have the recommendation include adolescents and young adults. This means medical professionals will decide whether to have an individual vaccinated against meningococcal group B depending on the patient's risk assessment.

Patrick Desbiens, GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) senior vice president of US vaccines explained that the meningococcal disease is a fast-acting and unpredictable illness that can cause irreparable damage. This makes vaccination necessary to prevent the disease from afflicting the body.

Desbiens said the ACIP vote is a historic development in the company's 20-year effort to produce a vaccine that can help protect people from the devastating effects of meningococcal disease.

The recommendation made by the ACIP features meningococcal group B vaccines Bexsero, which is developed by GSK, and Trumenba, which is developed by Pfizer.

Both vaccines were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on patients between 10 to 25 years old. The preferred age for vaccination, however, is between 16 and 18 years old.

"Health care providers should understand the importance of (the) ACIP recommendation to help protect adolescents and young adults," Laura York, Pfizer's global medical lead for meningococcal vaccines, said.

"This recommendation is an important step forward."

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will send [pdf] its recommendation to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review.

According to the CDC, meningococcal disease is any illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus.

These types of illnesses are known for their severity, and they often include infections of the brain's lining and spinal cord (meningitis) and infections of the bloodstream (septicemia or bacteremia).

The Neisseria meningitides bacteria are spread to other individuals through an exchange of respiratory and throat secretions such as saliva.

People suffering from meningococcal disease can be treated using antibiotics, but health experts stress the importance of immediate medical attention.

The CDC advises the public to be kept up to date regarding recommended vaccines in order to prevent the spread of meningococcal disease.

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