For complete immunity, UW students should get second dose of meningitis vaccine

As UW–Madison undergraduate students prepare to take their finals and head home for winter break, public health officials are urging them to make plans to get their second dose of meningococcal disease B vaccine. Three students were hospitalized with the disease in October.

At that time, few students ware vaccinated against it but, working quickly, University Health Services secured federal outbreak funding and vaccine to provide as many students as possible protection against the bacteria that causes the life-threatening illness. And students showed up. More than 21,000 UW undergrads received their first dose of the two-part vaccine in the days after the news broke.

The first dose, which was administered for free, provided significant immunity against the disease. However, a second dose is necessary for complete immunity and to extend the life of the vaccine, offering protection in the event of a future outbreak.

“Receiving the second dose is just as critical to maintaining long-term immunity and protecting yourself from meningitis,” wrote Sarah Van Orman, executive director of UHS, in an email to students on Dec. 12.

While UHS had hoped to provide the second dose free-of-charge, it recently learned federal funding would not be available to cover the necessary number of vaccines. Van Orman urges students to seek out the second dose of the vaccine, manufactured by Bexsero, from their primary care physicians or through their preferred retail pharmacies within the next two months. Most health care providers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois have confirmed the vaccine is covered as a preventative vaccine and providers in each state are prepared to administer the second dose to students.

Students may check their immunization record here.

Van Orman says most health insurance plans cover the meningococcal B vaccine. For students who do not have coverage or cannot access the vaccine, UHS has a limited number of doses available at no cost. Those students should contact UHS at

For more information about meningitis, visit the UHS page dedicated to it.