News at Princeton

Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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Meningitis B vaccine being considered at Princeton

At the request of the New Jersey Department 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 latest case 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 anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease) and late complement component deficiencies also 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.

E-mails with this information have been sent to Princeton students, faculty and staff, as well as parents of current undergraduate students.

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.

The University expects 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.

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.

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