Group Advises Princeton Students Weigh Risks and Benefits of Meningitis Vaccine

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Physician group issues advisory to Princeton student about meningitis vaccine.

A physician's group has issued an advisory for Princeton students who have been recommended to received type B meningitis vaccine. The vaccine could have serious side effects, may not even be effective and is not approved by the U.S. FDA.

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The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) says the specially imported meningitis vaccine that is recommended after seven cases of meningococcal meningitis, type B were discovered on campus is being offered under "special approval", making it important for students to weigh the risks and benefits.

On 11/26/13 Princeton officials announced the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officially recommended all Princeton University undergraduate students; students living in undergraduate dormitories, the Graduate College and annexes, and other members of the University community with specific medical conditions get the vaccine that is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Novartis.

The vaccine, Bexsero, is not approved by the U.S. FDA, leading the AAPS to advise that students weigh the risks and benefits of the meningitis vaccine before becoming “guinea pigs” for a “potentially lucrative product.”

The vaccine was rejected by the U.K. this year for routine meningitis immunization, which was a setback for Novartis.

The U.K. Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) based their decision on lack of efficacy, noting that antibodies against meningitis from the vaccine wane rapidly, in addition to other factors that included low-rates of infection that have steadily declined.

The effectiveness of the vaccine isn’t even known. The group also says the risk of contracting type B meningococcal meningitis is very low in an e-mail press announcement sent to EmaxHealth from Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the AAPS.

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If you have been exposed to meningitis, antibiotics should be prescribed, even for those who do take the vaccine.

The AAPS warns there are huge incentives to drug companies who potentially stand to profit from widespread dissemination of the vaccine. Drug companies are also immune from legal liability related to adverse events when vaccines are government recommended.

The group is suggesting Princeton students do their own research before participating in a study, ask questions and don't succumb to pressure to take the meningitis vaccine.

Symptoms of the disease begin with headache and stiff neck, high fever and altered mental status that come from inflammation of the meninges that are protective coatings on the spinal cord.

Meningitis is considered a medical emergency because it can result in severe neurological symptoms and disability if not treated early.

Other steps to take to avoid meningitis include:

  • Abstain from casual sex
  • Don't share towels, cups or other personal items
  • Practice good hygiene

The type-B meningococcal meningitis vaccine won't offer long-lasting protection and could have serious side effects that often show up only after widespread use, the physician group says.

Image: Grook Da Oger - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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