Princeton to Offer Meningitis B Vaccine to 6,000 Students

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013  |  Updated 5:15 AM EDT
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Princeton to Offer Meningitis Vaccine to 6,000 Students

A meningitis vaccine not yet licensed for use in the U.S. will be made available to nearly 6,000 students starting Dec. 9 at Princeton University, which had previously said it was considering the move.

The Ivy League school has experienced an outbreak of type B meningococcal disease, which is sometimes life-threatening. Since March, seven Princeton students and one student visitor have been stricken by the bacterial illness.

Princeton said Tuesday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now officially recommended that the new vaccine go to all undergraduate students; graduate students living in dorms; the Graduate College and annexes; and employees with certain medical conditions.

The first dose will be available Dec. 9 through 12, and the second dose in February. The CDC says two doses are needed for maximum protection.

Under New Jersey law, students who live in dorms must have vaccinations against other strains of meningitis, but a different type is needed for the B strain of the illness.

The vaccine to be given at Princeton is licensed for use in Europe and Australia but not in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing its use at Princeton.

The university said the school's more than 5,200 undergraduate students, and more than 500 graduate students living in dorms, are covered by the recommendation. The CDC said it will be important to get as many students vaccinated as possible to help stop the outbreak, though vaccinations are voluntary.

Meningitis can be spread through kissing, coughing or lengthy contact.

The disease causes swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It's fairly rare in the United States, but those who get it develop symptoms quickly and can die in a couple of days. Survivors can suffer mental disabilities, hearing loss and paralysis.

A case of meningitis was also reported at Monmouth University this month, but it was later determined to be a more common strain than the one found at Princeton. 

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