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California Students To Get Meningitis B Vaccine

Students at the University of California Santa Barbara will be able to get an experimental meningitis vaccine that parents had been clamoring for after outbreaks there and at Princeton University, university officials said Friday.

UCSB scheduled vaccine clinics for Feb. 24 through March 7.

It protects against meningitis B, a strain not included in the standard meningitis vaccine given to teenagers. More than 5,200 students at Princeton University in New Jersey received the emergency vaccine in December after an outbreak of a slightly different strain of meningitis B there sickened eight students associated with the school since March.

Four students at UCSB were sickened by a slightly different strain of meningitis B, including an 18-year-old freshman whose feet had to be amputated because of complications.

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the use of the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for the UC Santa Barbara campus," administration officials wrote in a letter to students.

CDC recommends that 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 reads.

The rare-but-dangerous infection kills one in 10 people who get it and leaves 20 percent of those who survive with serious disabilities.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at first that the outbreak at UCSB was different, and said students there likely did not need the vaccine. But parents howled in protest, so federal health officials relented.

The students will receive Bexsero, a vaccine that protects against the B strain of meningitis. It has been approved in Europe, Australia and Canada, but not in the U.S.

Bacterial meningitis is a dangerous infection of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, along with severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, sensitivity to light, confusion and, possibly, rash.