The University is making preparations to offer a vaccine that targets a strain of meningitis tied to seven cases contracted by Princeton students and a student visitor since March, pending final approval from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If approved, the vaccine would be offered to all undergraduates, graduate students who live in campus dormitories, and others with specific medical conditions.
“The University has taken this outbreak very, very seriously,” said Princeton spokesman Martin Mbugua. State law requires students living in dorms to have received the meningitis vaccine, which protects against most strains of the bacteria but not against serogroup B – the type tied to the Princeton cases.
A vaccine that targets serogroup B, called Bexsero and produced by Novartis, has been approved for use in Europe and Australia but not in the United States. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration told the CDC that it would allow the vaccine to be imported solely for use in the Princeton community. According to the CDC, one-third of the approximately 480 cases of meningitis in the United States in 2012 were caused by serogroup B.
CNN reported that a decision by the CDC on recommendations to proceed with the vaccinations could come this week.
“The University is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible,” Princeton said in a statement today.
The University said it hopes to make the first of two doses of the vaccine available in early December. A second dose would be available in February, with the University noting that two doses are required for maximum protection.
The vaccine would be offered to all undergraduates, grad students living in dorms, and individuals with functional and anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease) and late complement component deficiencies, the Princeton statement said.
“The vaccine would be made available only to these groups, and it would not be administered anywhere else,” the University said, adding that the CDC and state health officials said that campus activities should “continue as normal.”
Princeton said that the University would pay for the cost of the vaccine for all students who receive it. Those under 18 would need a signed consent form from their parent or guardian.
The University has issued a number of health advisories about ways to prevent the spread of meningitis. “The entire University community has been very cooperative and responsive,” Mbugua said.