Princeton University officials decided Monday to make available a meningitis vaccine that hasn't
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.