For more than 15 years, Norway has had the highest incidence of meningococcal disease in northern Europe, with 80% of cases being due to serogroup B meningococci. The case-fatality has remained high, at about 10%. In this study, an outer membrane vaccine, which had previously been shown to induce an increase in bactericidal antibodies to the parent strain, was assessed in a large-scale, randomised, double-blind trial. From October, 1988, 171,800 students in secondary schools volunteered to take part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, efficacy trial with school as the randomisation unit. Hospitals and clinics that routinely receive patients with infectious disease were asked to report urgently all cases of suspected meningitis and/or septicaemia in 13-21-year-old students in Norway. These cases were registered and further investigated according to a detailed protocol. 89 out of the 221 cases investigated by June 3, 1991, were shown to be severe systemic disease due to group B meningococci. 36 cases in 35 schools took part in the trial (11 schools with vaccinated students and 24 with students given placebo). The calculated rate of protection was thus 57.2% (p = 0.012, one-sided test). The findings suggest that, although the vaccine conferred protection against group B meningococcal disease, the effect was insufficient to justify a public vaccination programme.