November 19th, 2013
10:58 AM ET

Princeton Students Closer to Getting Meningitis Vaccine

Pending final approval from the Centers for Disease Control, Princeton University is preparing to provide a vaccine targeting a strain of meningitis in the wake of a campus outbreak, the school said Monday.

The CDC was preparing to recommend that all Princeton undergraduates and graduate students living in dormitories receive the vaccine, the Ivy League school said in a statement.

Other members of the university community should be vaccinated if they have conditions where the spleen is compromised or immune system disorders, the statement said.

The recommendations are still pending the review of the CDC's Independent Review Board, the CDC said Monday.

"Pending final CDC approval, the university is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible," the Princeton statement said.

Princeton has seen seven cases of meningitis, a potentially fatal illness, since March. Only one vaccine exists to target meningococcal bacteria known as type B, the strain that appears responsible for the outbreak.

See CNN's Elizabeth Cohen says this vaccine is called Bexsero and is made by Novartis. It has not been licensed for use in the United States, but it was approved this year in Europe and Australia. The Princeton situation is the first outbreak of this strain since the vaccine was licensed in those countries.

The necessary doses would need one to two months to get to Princeton, according to Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow. Bexero is manufactured in Italy, Masow said.

The university would cover the cost of the vaccine for all students who receive it.

Two doses are required to protect individuals against this rare disease. Princeton hopes to make the first two doses of the vaccine available in early December, and the second in February.

The meningococcal vaccines already available in the United States to college students would not protect them against this serogroup B bacteria.

The university, the New Jersey Department of Health and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are discussing options to control the outbreak, CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins said Monday.

Before the news of the possible CDC recommendation on Monday afternoon, Princeton's board of trustees had met over the weekend to consider whether to offer students the vaccine on a voluntary basis.

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