The local mother of a UC Santa Barbara student who contracted meningitis said she is “absolutely thrilled” a vaccine has been approved to treat it, even though it was too late to save her son’s feet.
Carlsbad resident Kirsten Loy doesn’t like to focus on the what if’s.
“I mean, if only we had had that available a year ago, we would have been on it,” she said.
Last November, her son Aaron, a La Costa Canyon graduate and freshman lacrosse player, caught a rare strain of bacterial meningitis during an outbreak at UCSB.
While nearly 500 students on campus were given antibiotics to fight the disease, it had already spread too far in Aaron.
He lost both legs below the knee.
The athlete had contracted the potentially deadly Neisseria meningitis serogroup B strain, which just weeks ago killed San Diego State University freshman Sara Stelzer and hospitalized a student at Palomar Community College.
A vaccine to treat and prevent the illness, widely used in Europe, was only brought to the U.S. during outbreaks, like the one that sickened Princeton students last year.
But on Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration cleared Pfizer’s Trumenba drug to prevent the subtype of meningococcal disease in people ages 10 to 25.
Kirsten Loy said hearing about the vaccine comes as a relief.
"Actually I've been worried about other kids constantly, and I watch the news,” said Kirsten. “To know they can have something to prevent this is amazing, and Aaron will be absolutely thrilled.”
Her son is now back at school, with a new pair of prosthetics.
“He gets up every day with a smile on his face, puts his legs on and just carries on,” his mother said.
Current vaccines only protect against serogroups A, C, Y and W-135, but the addition of the new serum is an important breakthrough, said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego.
“Type B disease makes up somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of the disease we see in adolescent populations, so to have now a vaccine that will cover that is great news,” said Sawyer.
Kirsten told NBC 7 she hopes her son’s story has helped to save others.
“Maybe he was a catalyst to help this vaccination go through. Maybe just a little bit,” she said.
Pfizer said parents interested in getting the Type B vaccine for their children should work with their doctor's offices. They hope to have it available within a few months.