University provides meningitis B vaccine during campus clinics

Meningitis clinc

In this video the Student Health Advisory Board speaks with some of the Princeton students who have had meningitis and with Dr. Janet Neglia of University Health Services. The University will offer the first dose of a Meningitis B vaccine on Dec. 9-12.

Princeton University began providing the first dose of the meningitis B vaccine to recommended campus groups on Monday, Dec. 9, with 1,959 individuals vaccinated by the end of the first day. At the conclusion of the clinics on Thursday night, the total number vaccinated was 5,268.

The vaccine clinics are being held from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Dec. 9-12, in the Frist Campus Center multipurpose room. More information about the clinics is available on the University's meningitis website.

During the first hour of the clinic Monday, lines to receive the vaccine moved steadily and students reported reasonable wait times.

"I am really concerned about the safety of everyone in this community," sophomore Audrey Berdahl-Baldwin said as she waited for the vaccine. "I was happy the University gave such thoughtful consideration to making this vaccine available, and coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to provide the vaccine on campus."

Since March 2013, there have been eight cases of meningococcal disease associated with University students and a student visitor, all of which were caused by meningococcal bacteria known as serogroup B.

Meningitis clinc

Students wait in line in Frist Campus Center on Monday, Dec. 9, during the first day of the University's meningitis B vaccine clinic. (Photo by Amaris Hardy, Office of Communications)

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all Princeton undergraduate students; graduate students living in undergraduate dormitories, the Graduate College and annexes; and other members of the University community with certain medical conditions receive the vaccine to help protect against meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B bacteria.

These groups were recommended 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.

Junior Chester Dubov said he would encourage all eligible groups to get vaccinated.

"I had a friend in high school who died from meningitis. It was a big relief to me when I heard the University was offering the vaccine," Dubov said after receiving his vaccine. "The shot didn't hurt at all."

The meningitis B vaccine being offered on campus is licensed for use in Europe and Australia, and was recently approved for use in Canada. It is not licensed in the United States, but the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have allowed the use of the vaccine for this particular situation at Princeton. The University is covering the cost of the vaccine, which nurses from Maxim Health Systems are administering.

In order to receive the vaccine, individuals must present their University I.D. and sign a vaccine consent form. Students under age 18 must have a parent or guardian sign the form. University community members who have problems with their spleen (including sickle cell disease) or complement pathway (a specific type of immune deficiency) should present medical documentation to University Health Services in McCosh Health Center before attending the clinic.

Senior Cathy Chen said most of her friends were planning to get vaccinated, with many concerned about the serious and long-term health effects of meningitis.

"Why not get it?" Chen asked rhetorically. "Your life is important."

As individuals exited the vaccine clinic, Dr. Janet Neglia reminded them to return for the second dose needed for maximum protection against meningitis. The University will announce at a later time the dates of a second vaccine clinic in February.

"The first dose gives you good immunity; the second dose gives you great immunity," said Neglia, associate director of medical services at University Health Services. "Please come back in February for that second dose."

University Health Services staff also gave away cups and fliers to encourage students to continue to increase hygienic practices to prevent the spread of meningitis.

The University community also should continue to be aware of 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.