Princeton starts offering meningitis B vaccination to students

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 in Medical Rewind, Political, Vaccines

(CNN) — A vaccine not licensed for use in the United States will be offered to thousands of Princeton University students beginning Monday, after a string of meningitis B cases at the college this year.

The vaccine is called Bexsero and is made by Novartis. It has been approved in Europe and Australia.

With the blessing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Princeton will make the vaccine available to all undergraduate students, graduate students living in dorms or the Graduate College and annexes, and other university community members with particular medical conditions.

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That adds up to about 5,000 undergraduates and 550 graduate students in dorms, university spokesman Martin Mbugua had told CNN previously.

Additionally, around half a dozen people with conditions that fall under the recommendation would also be affected, although there may be more who have not yet disclosed their conditions, he said. These include conditions where the spleen is compromised, or certain other immune system disorders.

The vaccine will not be provided to anyone else or given out anywhere else, the school said.

Young adults and individuals with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of meningitis, especially when living in close proximity to one another, such as in dormitories.

The first dose of the vaccine will be available this week; a second dose in February.

For maximum protection, individuals must receive two doses. Princeton will cover the cost of the vaccine.

Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord, known as the meninges. Infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes this inflammation, according to the CDC.

In 2012, there were 480 cases of bacterial meningitis in the United States, according to the CDC. Of those, 160 were group B.

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CNN’s Miriam Falco contributed to this report