Princeton University officials have decided that they will make available to students suffering from type B meningitis a vaccine that is not normally approved for use in the US. Although the use of this normally excluded vaccine is a testament to the extraordinary nature of this outbreak those who are given the vaccine should know that it is an approved vaccine in Europe and Australia.
The vaccine is designed to specifically combat type B meningitis, which is not normally vaccinated against in students who are attending university. The B strand is, however, one of the most common types to be found in Europe, only recently has it made its way to the US. Type B meningitis was found in 160 of the 480 cases of meningitis found in the US last year as reported by the Center for Disease Control. Nearly one in every ten young adults with type B meningitis dies, while one in five can develop a permanent disability.
As is the case with most universities across the country, Princeton requires that students be vaccinated against meningitis before living in their dormitories. Pritish Tosh, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic where he works with developing vaccines, said that Bexsero is effective and has had positive results where it has been used. He added that “Since there is a product available, it makes a lot of sense to me if the public authorities go for it.”
Princeton University has said that the vaccine will be made available to undergraduate students in December. The vaccine will also be available to graduate students who live in the dorms and to employees, but only those with sickle-cell disease or a different medical condition that makes them more susceptible to contracting meningitis.
Meningitis can be spread from person to person through kissing or other forms of touching and is more easily spread in the winter, so it is easy to see why Princeton is taking such an inclusive approach to the distribution of the vaccine on a campus where students and employees operate so closely together. The vaccine for type B meningitis is most effective when received in two doses. School officials said that the follow-up doses will be available in February. They also stated that while the vaccines would not be mandatory for students of the university that those who chose to receive them would find them already paid for by Princeton.
So far none of the cases that have been reported on Princeton’s campus have been fatal, although two individuals are still in the hospital.
The vaccine, Bexsero was imported by the Food and Drug Administration last week and was awaiting approval by the university. One statement read, “Pending final CDC approval, the university is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible.
Martin Mbugua, a spokesman for the university stated that university officials had considered a wide array of different options before they finally concluded to move ahead with this course of action. Mr. Mbugua did decline to elaborate on what the other options were.
By Nick Manai
The Daily Journal
San Fransisco Gate