Just because a vaccine is licensed does not mean it is routinely recommended for all eligible recipients. While this may seem counterintuitive, it is the job of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — more specifically its Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) — to weigh a variety of factors to recommend who should receive a vaccine.
While these decisions consider individual risks, they are also driven by societal health considerations. As a result, sometimes a safe and effective vaccine will not be routinely recommended for all of those eligible to receive it.
To distinguish between routine and non-routine recommendations, categories have been established:
- Category A recommendations should be used by everyone within a particular group.
- Category B recommendations indicate that a vaccine can be used, but it is not routinely recommended for the population.
The important thing to remember about these categories is that they are developed based on societal factors. A parent deciding about vaccines may come to a different conclusion. Category B vaccines are safe and effective, and the cost is typically covered by insurers and government programs, so a parent might see it as an opportunity to further protect their child from a particularly fatal disease.
This conversation has become relevant for parents of teens as a vaccine that protects against meningococcal type B has been given a category B recommendation.
In this video, Dr. Offit shares the meningococcal B vaccine story to describe the differences between the types of recommendations.
View this video with a transcript