University will offer Meningitis B vaccines to recommended groups

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now officially recommended that all Princeton University undergraduate students, and also graduate students living in undergraduate dormitories, the Graduate College and annexes, and other members of the University community with certain medical conditions, receive a vaccine that helps protect against meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B bacteria. The vaccine will be provided only to these groups, and it will not be administered anywhere else.

The specified groups were recommended by the CDC to receive the vaccine because young adults and people with certain medical conditions are at increased risk of getting meningitis, especially those who live in close quarters, such as dormitories.

Since March 2013 there have been eight cases of meningococcal disease contracted by Princeton University students and a student visitor, all of which were caused by meningococcal bacteria known as serogroup B, including the latest case reported on Nov. 21.

The first dose of the vaccine will be available on the following dates.

  • Dec. 9: Noon to 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 10: Noon to 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 11: Noon to 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 12: Noon to 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room

The second dose will be made available in February. Two doses of the vaccine are needed for maximum protection. Students leaving for or returning from study abroad will be contacted to discuss an alternate schedule to allow them to receive both doses of the vaccine.

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

The CDC recommends that all members of the University community who have problems with their spleen (including sickle cell disease) or complement pathway disorder (a specific type of immune deficiency) be considered for vaccination. Those who have these conditions would be required to present documentation or a physician’s note to University Health Services before receiving the vaccine.

Princeton University will cover the cost of the vaccine.

Students under the age of 18 will need a signed consent form from their parent or guardian before receiving the vaccine. A separate communication will be sent to those students and their parents.

The University's meningitis information website has frequently asked questions about the vaccine clinics, including specific questions for students, faculty, staff and community members.

The CDC meningitis website has frequently asked questions about the meningitis B vaccine and bacterial meningitis. The CDC also has the e-mail address [email protected] dedicated to answering questions about the vaccine.

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 have allowed the use of this vaccine for this particular situation at Princeton. The vaccines will be administered by Maxim Health Systems, which also runs the annual flu vaccine clinic on campus.

Students who already received a meningococcal vaccine are not currently protected against serogroup B. The vaccine recommended by the CDC will protect against the specific strain involved in the outbreak at Princeton.

The CDC and state health officials recommend that classes and activities at Princeton University continue as planned, and the surrounding community can continue to attend events on the campus. They do not recommend any travel restrictions for members of the University community. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been, and there is no evidence to suggest a risk of spreading the bacterial by touching surfaces.

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.

The University will continue to provide reminders and additional information about the vaccine and precautions to help limit the spread of bacterial meningitis.