Has fear of the “meng” gone extinct?

By Lily Reisigner

November of 2015 marked the two-year anniversary of the last meningitis B case on the Princeton University campus. While fear of contracting the life-threatening virus has been almost eliminated among the student body, University health officials and the CDC still deem the issue an ongoing concern and continue to recommend that all incoming students receive the vaccination.

The 1,322 new students who arrived on campus this September, however, had one less cause for concern than those of years past: both versions of the meningitis B vaccine administered by University Health Services are now approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Until last October, the only meningitis vaccine administered to Princeton students was Bexsero, which did not receive FDA approval until January of this year. Bexsero requires an initial dose followed a second dose within six months of the first for full protection. Prior to its approval, Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbra were the only two locations in the United States permitted to administer the vaccine. These exceptions were made in an effort to prevent further outbreaks of the potentially fatal disease on college campuses.

For Jack Finlay, a member of the Class of 2018, the lack of FDA approval was not a concern when he received both doses of Bexsero last fall. “It didn’t bother me that the shot wasn’t legal in the US mainly because it is approved for use in Western Europe, whose quality of health I consider to be on the same level as in the US,” said Finlay.

“I don’t really think that the shot is necessary, but it is a good safety precaution to take, just in case the disease were to return to the Princeton campus.”

In the October of 2014, however, the FDA approved an alternative drug called Trumemba. Upon Trumemba’s approval, Princeton immediately stocked the vaccine in McCosh Health Center. Students who received only one dose of the University-administered Bexsero vaccine offered in 2013 and 2014 would need to receive all 3 doses of Trumemba to be fully protected against meningitis B.

Although receiving the meningitis B vaccine is completely voluntary for members of the class of 2019, freshmen are “highly recommended” but not required to get vaccinated, according to University Health Services.

Current freshman Carolyn MacFarlane, a member of the Varsity Swimming and Diving Team, decided to get the shot, explaining,

“I just don’t want to get meningitis, especially with the diving season at stake if I got sick.”

Carolyn seems to echo the general consensus among the freshman class, a majority of whom attended the vaccination clinics held in Frist at the beginning of the year. Bexsero is currently the vaccine of choice on campus.

While the global market for meningitis vaccines is predicted to triple in the next five years, it remains to be seen whether other universities will follow Princeton’s precedent and offer vaccination against meningitis or if the threat to college campuses will die out entirely.

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