PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — Princeton University has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the United States.
Seven students and one prospective student who was visiting campus have been stricken by potentially life-threatening type B meningococcal disease since March. None of the cases has been fatal.
Scores of students were lined up in a campus center when the vaccinations became available Monday. Nearly 2,000 received shots the first day. Vaccines are being given through Thursday, and a booster dose will be given in February.
The vaccinations were recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is being made available to all undergraduates, as well as graduate students who live in dorms and employees with certain medical conditions. Taking it is voluntary.
Under New Jersey law, all students who live in dorms are required to have a meningitis vaccine, but it does not prevent the B strain, which responds differently to vaccines from other strains. The strain is the most common in Europe and accounted for one-third of the meningitis cases reported in the U.S. last year by the CDC. Princeton’s is the first outbreak of the B strain worldwide this year.
On campus Monday, students were amused at the presence of reporters interested in whether they had gotten a shot, or planned to.
“It’s hard to take it seriously even though I know it’s a serious situation,” Ryan McDonnell, a 20-year-old junior, said after receiving the vaccine. “I never considered not getting it.”
He said that the experience, including filling out a consent form and waiting 15 minutes after the shot was given, took less than 30 minutes.
Another 20-year-old junior, Jimmy van Thron, said he was planning to get the vaccine in coming days.