Over the next two weeks UCSB undergraduate students have the unique opportunity  to obtain a vaccination against serogroup B meningococcal meningitis, provided to you at no charge in the Rec Cen from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, March 7. Princeton University students are the only other college population in the U.S. that has been allowed to receive this vaccine.


Why do we need this vaccine when the most recent UCSB cases were in November?

Experience at other colleges has shown a prolonged risk for this potentially fatal disease over many months. Cases occurred at Princeton over a span of seven months, and over a span of 18 months a few years ago at Ohio University. A 14-year-old student died last week in San Diego from meningococcal disease. Getting the MenB vaccine will help protect you, our campus community and your close friends.


I already got a meningitis vaccine as a child or teenager; why do I need this one too?

The MenB vaccine available at UCSB is a new vaccine that covers serogroup B, which is the type of meningococcal bacteria that caused the four cases at UCSB in November. This is NOT covered in the vaccines currently being given in the rest of the USA.


Is this an experimental vaccine, and is it part of a research project?

No, this is not an experiment nor part of clinical research. Since the MenB vaccine is not currently licensed in the USA, special approval from the Food and Drug Administration had to be obtained as part of an Expanded Access Investigational Drug Application for use only on the UCSB target population as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), similar to the process that brought it to Princeton University.


How safe is this vaccine?

The MenB vaccine was developed over 10 years and studied in clinical trials with 8,000 recipients. It is currently licensed and being used in Europe, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Princeton students received 5,000 doses in December and just had their second dose last week without any serious adverse effects found. UCSB students will be given further information when they come for the vaccine, and they will have an opportunity to ask questions with CDC experts who will be on site.


I’m not a big party person and I don’t live in a dormitory, so why should I worry about getting meningococcal meningitis?

This disease can randomly strike otherwise healthy young adults with permanent or fatal consequences, so although some situations seem to bestow higher risk, it is still unpredictable. A major benefit to vaccinations is that they protect an entire POPULATION; only by obtaining a high level of overall vaccination can we hope to make an impact on a disease outbreak. Widespread vaccination has caused the eradication of diseases from entire countries, with the most prominent example being polio. Students who receive this vaccine will not only be protecting themselves, but also protecting those around them from further spread of the disease.


Can vaccines give you the disease they’re supposed to protect you against?

Since vaccines only contain purified components that stimulate a person’s immune response, they do not cause the disease. The MenB vaccine does not contain any live infectious material. Sometimes vaccines will cause a sore arm or temporary feelings that might indicate that the immune reaction is working, but you will definitely not contract the disease itself.


Is there anything I can do to prevent common side effects from vaccines?

We suggest using normal doses of pain medicines available without prescription (e.g., names like ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, acetaminophen) for minor side effects such as a sore arm, mild temperature elevation or feelings of malaise. For any concerns about after-effects from MenB, please use the 24-hour hotline at (805) 893-2337, or come in to Student Health.


Why do I have to get two doses of this vaccine; won’t one dose work?

Like many other vaccines, the MenB vaccine requires two doses spaced at least one month apart in order to provide the best protection. Receiving one dose will help, but it will not provide the optimal immune response. UCSB will be offering the second dose at no charge in the Rec Cen again, beginning April 21.

Dr. Mary Ferris, M.D., is the UCSB Student Health Executive Director.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, February 24, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
 Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.