Bioethics Blogs

Managing Meningococcal Disease

by Michael (Mike) Kraten, PhD, CPA, IRB Chair at Providence College

It’s the news that no academic institution ever wants to hear. A life-threatening infection has struck a student on campus, and then a second student reports the same condition.

Recently, at Providence College in Rhode Island, two students contracted meningococcal infections and were rushed immediately to inpatient facilities. Working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH), the College then managed to vaccinate over 3,000 at-risk undergraduate students in a single, brief, and intense outreach campaign with extensive information and medical applications.

That caught the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where epidemiologists and public health professionals seized an opportunity to conduct an evaluation on baseline nasal carriage of serotype B meningococcal bacteria, and to assess the impact of the vaccine after the targeted population was vaccinated. But because of the physical effects of the vaccination itself, all three parties (i.e., the College, the DOH, and CDC) needed to “fast track”their standard operating procedures.

That included the IRB review processes for both the DOH and Providence College. Current DOH director Dr. Michael Fine and incoming DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott took the lead in expediting the project’s IRB application. According to Dr. Alexander-Scott: “For this crucial evaluation to be conducted appropriately, we depended on a comprehensive IRB process in an expedited fashion. The Providence College IRB responded above and beyond this call.”

And what of the Providence College IRB? As its chair, I had experienced requests for “fast tracking” applications in the past.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.