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Princeton vaccine reaches 90 percent of eligible

Friday - 12/13/2013, 11:04am  ET

People walk at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Ivy League school 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. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) -- Princeton University officials say more than 90 percent of the eligible students and staff received a meningitis vaccine this week as part of the university's effort to halt an outbreak.

Nearly 5,300 people chose to get the vaccine for the B strain of the meningitis bacteria. The vaccine is approved for use in Europe, Australia and Canada but is not yet approved for general use in the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the unusual step and the Food and Drug Administration approved it.

The shots were available Monday through Thursday to all undergraduates, graduate students who live in dorms and employees with certain health condition. The university says about 5,800 people were eligible and urged them all to get the shot.

"We are delighted that so many of our students followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation to receive the first dose of the vaccine," Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey said in a statement.

Since March, seven students and a visitor have contracted the type B meningococcal bacteria. Though infections can be fatal, none of the Princeton cases has been.

All students who live in college dorms in New Jersey are required to have vaccines against other strains of meningitis. But until earlier this year, one that would help the body fight off type B had not been approved anywhere in the world. The vaccine, Bexsero, made by Switzerland-based Novartis, is in the approval pipeline in the U.S.

Campus officials have also tried to protect students by advising them not to share drinking glasses, among other measures.

Those who received the vaccine are recommended to get booster doses in February. Princeton says vaccinations will also be available next month for those who are off campus now and as boosters for those who will be away next semester when the other boosters will be administered.


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