Santa Barbara college students to get imported vaccine

Jan. 31, 2014 at 10:15 PM
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The government is allowing California college students to get a specially imported meningitis vaccine -- not U.S. approved but used in Europe, officials say.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed the use of the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for the University of California, Santa Barbara campus," administration officials wrote in a letter to students, NBC News reported.

Four UCSB students were infected in November with a strain of meningitis B and the feet of an 18-year-old freshman were amputated due to complications.

Last March, eight students at Princeton University in New Jersey were sickened by a slightly different strain of meningitis B. Last December more than 5,000 students and members of the campus community at Princeton were allowed by the federal government to import the Bexsero vaccine -- approved in Europe, Australia and Canada, but not the United States. Meningitis B isn't covered by the vaccines most U.S. college students already receive.

Ever since the Santa Barbara students were sick, the student body and parents requested the non-approved vaccine, but health officials said the UCSB outbreak was different and students likely did not need the vaccine, NBC News reported.

University officials said vaccine clinics are scheduled for Feb. 24 through March 7.

The letter to students said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all undergraduates get the vaccine, as well as faculty, staff and graduate students who have certain specific medical conditions or who live in dormitories.

"The vaccine can be provided only to those recommended by the CDC, as described above. The specified groups were recommended by the CDC to receive the vaccine because young adults and people with certain medical conditions are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease," the letter said.

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