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Princeton U. Begins Offering Experimental Meningitis Vaccine To Students

(Dr. Brian McDonough) Dr. Brian McDonough
Dr. Brian McDonough has been medical editor at KYW Newsradio for more...
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By Dr. Brian McDonough and Syma Chowdhry

PRINCETON, N.J. (CBS) — Starting today, Princeton University is administering the first round of a vaccine against meningitis not approved for general use in the United States.

The type B strain of meningitis is very rare in the United States, but it has attacked at Princeton, and the symptoms can occur quickly and be potentially deadly.

Dr. Thomas Clark of the CDC says, “It’s about a one in 750 chance of getting meningitis for student here.”

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the drug, approved in Europe and Australia but not in the United States, be given to the Princeton community.

The Food and Drug Administration is allowing for its limited use at Princeton.

Virginia Midkiff, a student at Princeton says, “We are ready for it to be over and done with. It’s not something we want to worry about.”

All undergraduate students will be offered the shot, as well as graduate students who live on campus.

Some students are concerned about the side effects and why Bexsero isn’t licensed here — but CDC officials say there hasn’t been a need until now.

Dr. Clark explains, “You develop vaccines that are relevant to the epidemiology of the countries you want to use them in.”

Some students say they’re on the fence about getting vaccinated.

A female student says, “I have some friends who are not getting it.”

But officials say it’s safer to get the vaccine than to go without it.

Dr. Clark says, “You can’t get meningitis from the meningitis vaccine. You can’t give someone meningitis from the meningitis vaccine.”

The first doses are set for the next few days.

Seven students and one student visitor have been stricken by the bacterial illness since March.

University officials say the vaccine will be made available on campus to nearly 6,000 students.

They say for maximum protection — students need two doses. The second dose will be administered in February.

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