Princeton University will not begin to offer Novartis' ($NVS) meningitis B vaccine Bexsero to students until next week, but health officials are already considering expanding the campaign to another university. An outbreak at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the cause of the latest concerns.
Last month four students in Santa Barbara were stricken by the potentially fatal bacteria, Reuters reports. Across the country in New Jersey, Princeton University is already working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to vaccinate students with Bexsero, a Novartis vaccine approved in Europe and Australia, but not the U.S. The CDC is now assessing whether to ask for FDA permission to import more of the unapproved vaccine for use at the Santa Barbara campus.
Before making a request, CDC is testing whether bacteria in blood samples from the infected California students responds to the vaccine. "It's an exceptional thing, really, to use an unlicensed vaccine in an outbreak like this. We want to be certain that the antibodies that you get from the vaccine actually kill these bacteria," CDC's head of meningitis surveillance Dr. Tom Clark said. The decision to import the vaccine for Princeton University was made after 8 students fell ill.
The Princeton vaccination campaign is due to start on Monday. In anticipation, Princeton University is holding "open forums" this week so staff and students can learn more about meningitis B and Bexsero. Anyone receiving the vaccine must complete an informed consent form, which CDC staffers will walk students through at the immunization clinics.