Princeton to make meningitis B vaccine available

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By Dr. Donald Donahue JR., DHEd, MBA, FACHE, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret), Firestorm Expert Council member and Advisory Member to the American Academy of Disaster Medicine

Princeton University will make a meningitis B 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, the school said Tuesday.

Eight cases of serogroup B meningococcal disease have been associated with Princeton University. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health have advised not to cancel or curtail events or activities on campus.

Meningitis B vaccine dates announced

The 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: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 10: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 11: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Frist Campus Center, Level B, Multipurpose Room
  • Dec. 12: 12 p.m. – 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.

The CDC recommends that all members of the University community with functional and anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease) and late complement component deficiencies may 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.

For frequently asked questions about the University vaccine clinics, including specific questions for students, faculty, staff and community members, please visit:

For frequently asked questions about the vaccine and bacterial meningitis, please visit the CDC’s meningitis information website:

Communicable diseases are an historic challenge where people assemble from many locations.  Military training bases, colleges, and universities are particularly susceptible because people spend an extended amount of time in close proximity.  Although relatively rare, the effects of bacterial meningitis are serious enough that it is not unusual to require immunization in these venues.  The small but significant outbreak at Princeton warrants attention and action.

The issue with this particular outbreak is that it is from a strain atypical to the United States.  That it appeared at the university is not unusual, as several of the victims had been traveling or interacted with others who had recently travelled to areas where the type B strain is more common.  Princeton University, state health, and CDC officials faced an unusual but not daunting decision.  The Bexsero vaccine has not been authorized for administration in the United States – it is pending FDA review – but has been approved and used effectively in Europe and Australia.  Given that one in ten young adults does not survive type B meningococcal bacteria infection, authorizing voluntary immunization under informed consent is a reasonable choice.

Learn about how to protect employees, students and others with Communicable Illness and Pandemic Planning


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