Princeton University will offer its on-campus students and some staff special meningitis vaccine that has been approved in Europe and Australia, but not in the United States. The move comes after the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval to importing the Bexsero vaccine for use on the campus. The university wants to stop the spread of type B meningococcal bacteria, which is rare in the US and potentially deadly. Since March, there have been seven cases of the infection at Princeton's campus in New Jersey.
Getting such emergency approval for a medicine is also rare but it has precedent, says Daniel Carpenter, a professor of Government at Harvard and expert on FDA regulation.
"Princeton and the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta both made the request to the FDA," Carpenter says. "The concern is that because these students are on campus, there's kind of a localized risk of infection, and hence the need for the vaccine would also more local. And, so, I think the FDA sees this as a containable situation where they don't have to approve a large-scale exception to the rules."