The meningitis B outbreak at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has slowed for now, with no new cases on the campus since November. However, authorities still view the bacteria as a threat and are trying to get clearance to use Novartis' ($NVS) Bexsero. When that will happen is unclear, though.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed it has begun the process for winning FDA approval to use the unlicensed vaccine at the campus in California. The bacteria has infected four students at the university, including one person who subsequently had to have both feet amputated. CDC is trying to prevent similar incidents by sourcing enough Bexsero to protect 20,000 students, but the process is taking time.
"It's still an unlicensed vaccine, and just because it was done at Princeton, it doesn't make the process any easier. So a lot of stuff needs to happen, but again, we are working to make the vaccines available," CDC meningitis chief Dr. Thomas Clark told The Daily Princetonian. Health authorities vaccinated 5,200 students at Princeton last month--and are planning a booster shot in February--but debates about who is eligible continue. The current concern is what will happen when soon-to-be students visit the campus.
Writing an op-ed in the New York Post, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute chastises FDA for failing to approve the vaccine already. Parents are also worried about the delay in getting vaccines to California. "I'm just looking forward to the day, hopefully sooner than later, when my son is standing in line awaiting his 'shot in the arm,' and I can breathe a sigh of relief," Nancy Gorman, the parent of a freshman, told NBC News.