Princeton to give students meningitis vaccine not approved in the US

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PRINCETON, N.J. (PIX11) —Princeton University officials announced Monday that they will go ahead and make available a meningitis vaccine that has not been approved in the United States after a recent outbreak of the rare strain.

Students told PIX11 Monday night that they’re not letting the meningitis outbreak stop them from living, and now that an unapproved vaccine is likely headed their way, many are relieved — but others told PIX11 News they’re not taking anything unapproved, especially medicine.

“I think it’s not safe to put something in my body that’s not FDA approved yet,” said Princeton Senior Sungmin.

Senior Sungmin Cho won’t sign up for an unapproved meningitis vaccine. Even if the CDC says it’s okay.

After eight months and seven reported cases of meningitis on Princeton’s campus, the CDC may now be taking an extreme step. The school said Monday that the CDC is getting ready to recommend that all Princeton undergraduate students who live in dorms or off-campus, and graduate students who live in dorms receive a vaccine that helps protect against meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B. The strain seen in seven students and one visitor on campus.

While this particular type of vaccine is licensed in Europe and in Australia, it is not licensed in the United States, according to the University.

Princeton on edge after meningitis outbreak

Graduate student Patrick De Oliveira showed us an email he received from the Ivy League school on Monday night with vaccine information. He doesn’t think he’s eligible.

“I guess the CDC is alright with it so I don’t think it should be a problem”, said De Oliveira.

The University said it hopes to make the first dose of the vaccine available in early December, and a second dose available in February.  On campus,  Junior Kelsea Best said she’ll do whatever it takes knowing that this strain of meningitis could be fatal.

“Hopefully, they get it to us soon,” said Best.

Pending CDC approval, the University said it is prepared to make arrangements to provide access to the vaccine as soon as possible.

Princeton said it would cover the cost of the vaccine for all students who receive it.

State health officials are recommending activities at Princeton University go on as normal.

The bacterial form of the virus can be spread through kissing. It can also be spread by sharing drinks, and other forms of close contact — all common occurrences on college campuses like Princeton.

Symptoms can include stiff neck and vomiting. Sensitivity to light and confusion are also symptoms.

Complications can lead to brain damage. And, in some cases it could lead to death when not treated immediately.

The CDC issued this statement Monday:

At the request of the New JerseyDepartment of Health (NJDOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed the seven cases of meningococcal disease contracted by Princeton University students and a student visitor since March 2013, all of which were caused by meningococcal bacteria known as serogroup B, including the latestcase reported on Nov. 10.

The CDC is preparing to recommend that all Princeton University undergraduate students (those who live in dormitories or off campus) and graduate students who live in dormitories receive a vaccine that helps protect against meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B. The CDC would recommend that other members of the University community with functional and anatomicasplenia (including sickle cell disease) and late complement component deficiencies also should receive the vaccine. Based on the CDC’s assessment of the cases at Princeton, only these groups would be recommended to receive the vaccine.

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.

The vaccine that is being recommended is licensed for use in Europe and Australia, but not the United States. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration would allow the use of this vaccine for this particular situation at Princeton.

The University hopes to make the first of two doses of the vaccine available on specific dates in early December, which would be announced soon. The vaccine is expected to be provided to all Princeton undergraduates, all graduate students living in dormitories, and individuals with the specific conditions mentioned above. The vaccine would be made available only to these groups, and it would not be administered anywhere else.

We expect to make a second dose available in February. Two doses of the vaccine are required for maximum protection.

Students who already received a meningococcal vaccine are not currently protected against serogroup B, the bacteria causing the outbreak at Princeton. Students would need to get the vaccine recommended by the CDC in order to be protected against serogroup B.

Students, including those who get the vaccine, and other members of the University community should continue to pay increased attention to personal hygienic practices and remember these important points about meningitis:

  • Any student with a high fever should go to University Health Services in McCosh Health Center or call (609) 258-3141 during business hours or (609) 258-3139 after hours.
  • You may become ill with meningitis even if you have not been in contact with someone who is sick.
  • You can help prevent the spread of disease by increasing hygienic practices, and not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, smoking materials and other items.

Princeton University would cover the cost of the vaccine for all students who receive it. Students under the age of 18 would need a signed consent form from their parent or guardian before receiving the vaccine. The vaccines would be administered by Maxim Health Systems, which also runs the annual flu vaccine clinic on campus.

The CDC and state health officials recommend that activities on the Princeton University campus continue as normal.

For frequently asked questions about the vaccine and bacterial meningitis, please visit the CDC’s meningitis information website: www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/vaxQAs

You may also email the CDC at meningvaccine@cdc.gov, which is dedicated to answering questions about this vaccine.

The University also has a website with general meningitis information: http://web.princeton.edu/sites/emergency/meningitis.html.

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