Thursday, October 8 , 2015, 10:18 pm | Fair 80º

FDA Allows Use of Imported Meningitis Vaccine at UCSB

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

The Food and Drug Administration has announced it will allow to be administered a vaccine against the type of meningococcal disease that broke out at UCSB last year, and campus staff are urging undergraduates and others to get the free vaccination to prevent more cases.

Last year, four undergraduate students became ill with meningitis within a three-week period, and the vaccine for their specific strain of illness — the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine — was only available outside the United States.

However, according to a letter sent to the campus from Student Health Services Director Dr. Mary Ferris, the FDA has allowed use of the vaccine on campus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA allowed the use of the same vaccine at Princeton University, where another outbreak was reported last year.

The CDC, which submitted the application, is recommending that only UCSB undergraduate and University Immersion Program students consider receiving the vaccine, as well as the small number of faculty, staff and graduate students who have certain specific medical conditions or who live in university-owned, dormitory-style residence halls.

"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, especially those who live in close quarters, such as dormitory-style residence halls," Ferris said.

The campus has not had any additional cases of meningitis since late November, but the vaccine is being recommended to prevent more cases.

"Even if students have already received a meningococcal vaccine, they are not currently protected against serogroup B," Ferris said. "The vaccine recommended by the CDC offers protection against the specific strain involved in the outbreak at UC Santa Barbara."

The vaccine will be provided at no cost to recipients, and a two-week clinic will be held from Feb. 24 to March 7 for the first of the two doses.

Ferris said the first dose of the vaccine will be available at the campus Multi-Activity Court at the Recreation Center from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 24. The vaccine will also be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 25-28 and again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 3.

Students younger than age 18 will need a signed parent/legal guardian permission form in order to receive the vaccine, Ferris said.

The second dose will be made available in the spring quarter during dates to be announced, and two doses of the vaccine are recommended for maximum protection.

Ferris said special arrangements will be made through Student Health for students leaving for returning from Education Abroad locations.

The CDC recommendation for the vaccine includes only a small number of faculty, staff and graduate students with the following medical conditions: functional and anatomic asplenia — i.e., those without a spleen or those whose spleen is not working normally, including those with sickle cell disease — or persistent complement component deficiencies — C5-C9, properdin, factor H, factor D.

These individuals should obtain documentation of their condition and alert Student Health Service at 805.893.5339 to make these arrangements, Ferris said, adding that anyone with eligibility questions should be directed to the CDC at [email protected].

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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