I doubt if the family's and students at UCSB or Princeton who had Type B meningitis don't feel it was a "near miss" For them regardless of the low risk of contracting the type B strain when it occurs to you statistics mean nothing.
Meningitis is a particularly challenging illness to diagnose and treat early. It often presents as a mild sore throat which quickly escalates into a high fever, mental changes, stiff neck and rash. Unless intervention occurs early loss of limbs, and other severe complications can arise. Sore throats and headaches and fever are ubiquitous at any school in the fall and winter.
Meningitis can be caused by multiple etiologies, (fungal,parasites, viral, and bacterial). Multi-valent and univalent vaccines have been developed.
Statistics can prove almost anything. Logic and probability are terms that 'QUANTS" use. Quants are the statisticians that develop and consult algo's (algorithms) . Algorithms have always been important in the insurance world, engineering, weather forecasting and much more.
Algorithms have not so quietly slipped into the mainstream of medicine in terms of managed care, cost,risk factors for disease and in basic research. Most of us remember the 'P' factor as the liklihood something would happen by chance in an experiment. It indicated how many times the event would occur by chance if repeated 100 or1000 times
The non-availability of Meningitis type B vaccine was due to one of those algorithms that determined it was NOT COST EFFECTIVE to import Bexsero into the U.S. It was deemed by decision makers that it would be too expensive to run through the U.S. FDA investigative new drug application process. For most really new drugs this can be one or more years.
The drug manufacturer, of Bexsero, a vaccine licensed only in Europe and Australia that protects against meningitis B, a strain not covered by the shots recommended for college students in the U.S. had to apply to the FDA to initiate the process (started in October 12-13 at about the same time as the first cases at Princeton and UCSB were diagnosed.
The first doses were given at Princeton December 9, 2013. The process obviously was fast-tracked but it required two months because of the arduous bureaucracy.
The take-aways here are:
1. Many preventive measures are calculated on the basis of similar algorithms
2..A centralized authority such as the Affordable Care Act and the proposed IPABs establish many procedures and/or treatments that are acceptable, not recommended, or 'not covered' by the affordable care act as a standardized practice, all based upon statistical algorithms.
3. Diverting from a standard practice, or an emergency practice can be delayed considerably by these processes.
Inevitably the physician has the moral and the ethical responsibility for the decision. The patient's welfare is the ultimate arbiter.
Our health system is becoming dangeously close to interfering with a physician's hippocratic oath.