Could a Cuban vaccine have prevented a Princeton epidemic?

Eight Princeton University students have contracted type B meningitis since March.

Meningitis, which inflames the lining around the brain and nerves, is a deadly disease to which young people are particularly susceptible. Even with prompt treatment, 10 percent of all cases are fatal and among those who survive, impairments are common.

About 500 people died in the United States from bacterial meningitis each year from 2003 to 2007, the most recent data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. In 2012, there were about 500 total cases of meningococcal disease, and 160 of those cases were caused by type B, according to the CDC.

There are a few readily available vaccines in the U.S. for the other types of meningitis, but a vaccine for type B presents very complicated challenges.

Novartis, a big Swiss pharmaceutical company, has just had the use of its new vaccine, Bexsero Type B, cleared in the European Union. Meningitis type B is very common in Europe.

There is a Cuban vaccine named Va-Mengoc-Bc for type B meningitis that was developed by Cuba’s Finley Institute, led by Dr. Concepción Campa, and put in use in 1991. Type B meningitis is very common in Cuba and throughout Latin America.

According to Counterpunch, in Cuba: “The general infection rate in 1989 prior to the vaccine’s introduction was 6.5 per 100,000. It fell to 0.8 per 100,000 in 1993, to 0.2 per 100,000 in 2006.” (Nov. 18). A number of charts on epidemiological websites bear out this decline.

Over 55 million doses of Va-Mengoc-Bc have been distributed worldwide, but not in the U.S., due to the trade blockade in place for more than 50 years against the socialist island of Cuba.

Dr. Campa, in a 2007 interview with MEDICC Review, explained why Cuba developed this vaccine. “Cuba has a research approach that doesn’t only take into account the Cuban population’s health, but also global population health, especially the poor of the world — those that need medicine and preventive vaccines the most.” (medicc.org/mediccreview/)

Dr. Campa explained how and where Cuba distributed this vaccine, with a strong emphasis on preventing worldwide suffering.

Even though the students at Princeton attend an elite and highly expensive university, they weren’t able to prevent type B meningitis with the use of a vaccine that has a long track record of effectiveness, because of the U.S. and its criminal blockade of Cuba.