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Questions and Answers - Meningitis B Vaccines

Updated 1/5/2017

Who should get the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine?

During the serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak at Princeton University, the vaccine was recommended for all undergraduate students (those living in dormitories or off-campus), as well as graduate students who live in dormitories (resident graduate students and graduate students living in the graduate college and annexes). Certain other individuals associated with Princeton University may be evaluated for vaccination if they have specific medical conditions, including problems with their spleen (including sickle cell disease) or complement component pathway (a specific type of immune deficiency).

Although there have been no cases of meningitis B associated with this outbreak since March 2014, the University strongly recommends all undergraduates and graduate student living in dormitories receive the meningitis B vaccine.

When will Princeton University hold meningitis B vaccine clinics?

The University held clinics in September, October, and November 2016. No additional clinics are scheduled.

Students who did not make it to the clinics may receive the vaccine by making an appointment with University Health Services.

I already received the meningitis B vaccine at Princeton University or via my private physician.  Do I need a booster dose?

No.  At this time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not recommending additional doses of the meningitis B vaccines for individuals who have already received two doses of Bexsero or three doses of Trumenba.  Just be sure that you received the meningitis B vaccine and not the vaccine that protects from meningitis A, C, W and Y.  The ACWY vaccine is required and usually given as part of routine pediatric vaccination schedules.  The meningitis B vaccine is something that you would have requested.

Who should not get the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine?

Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine. This includes allergies to the vaccine’s MenB proteins and some preservatives such as aluminum hydroxide, sodium chloride, histidine and sucrose. Tell the doctor or nurse if you have any severe allergies.

Who should get more advice before getting the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, specifically Bexsero?

People with allergies to latex or the antibiotic "kanamycin" may have an increase in mild side effects with the vaccine. You should let the doctor know if you have allergies to latex or kanamycin.

While this vaccine has not been studied in individuals who are older than 50 years of age or have chronic medical problems or other problems with their immune system, they may still be able to get the vaccine. You should tell the doctor or nurse if this applies to you.

Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding may still be able to get the vaccine. You should tell the doctor or nurse if this applies to you.

What are the risks of the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of this meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Mild Problems

More than half of the people who get this vaccine have mild side effects, mostly where the shot was given (in the arm). They include pain and tenderness, swelling, and hardness or redness of the skin.

Other mild side effects include nausea, generally feeling a little rundown, and having a headache. In general, all of these side effects will get better on their own within a few days. Among adolescents, there is also a risk of fainting after getting this vaccine or any shot.

Severe Problems

Serious allergic reactions, within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot, are very rare. Other serious events, such as hospitalization, not being able to conduct normal life functions, or other life-threatening events, are also very rare. We will ask you to stay for 15 minutes after getting the shot to ensure that a severe reaction or fainting does not occur.

What are the signs of a serious reaction to a vaccine?

Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes. Signs of a severe allergic reaction, which would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination, can include:

What should I do if I have a severe reaction to the vaccine?

If you think you had a severe allergic reaction or other severe problem or emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor or theUniversity Health Services in McCosh Health Center.

You should report all severe problems within 24 hours, whether or not you think it was related to the vaccine,

I am not feeling well - should I get the vaccine?

If you are experiencing cold symptoms without fever, it is safe to get the vaccine.  You may speak with a nurse at the clinic to discuss any health problems you are experiencing on the day of vaccination to determine whether or not to delay getting the vaccine.

I know I have received a meningitis vaccine; how can I be sure I need this one?

All students should have received the conjugate meningitis vaccine that protects against meningitis A, C, W and Y.  Most individuals would not have received a vaccine that protects against meningitis B unless they specifically requested it.  The New Jersey State law requires that Princeton students living in dorms have received the conjugate (A,C.W.Y) vaccine. However, while the vaccine protects against most strains of the bacteria, it does not protect against type B, which is the type found in the cases at Princeton.

As of January 2015, the vaccine used in the University clinics, Bexsero by Glaxo Smith Kline, is licensed in the US for individuals ages 10 to 25. As of October 2014, another meningitis B vaccine, Trumemba by Pfizer, is also licensed. The two vaccines are not interchangeable. Both are available at University Health Services, but only Bexsero is available at the clinics.

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