Home > Parent Perspective, Preventable Diseases, Science & Research, Testimonials > Meningitis Vaccine May Save Your Child’s Life

Meningitis Vaccine May Save Your Child’s Life

Earlier this week I watched a mother lay her sweet 13-year-old child to rest. After a year-long battle with cancer, Kimberly’s fight was over and an entire community turned out to honor her at her funeral. As I sat in the pew of the church with my kids, I tried to imagine what it must be like to have to say goodbye to your own child. As parents we want nothing more than to protect our children. To imagine them suffering and dying is just unimaginable. My heart was heavy for Kimberly’s mother and I spent some quiet time reflecting on all the parents I’ve known who have walked in her shoes.

By some strange coincidence, when I returned to work I happened to come across the heartbreaking story of Evan – a child I had been thinking of only hours before.EvanBozoff

Evan was a healthy twenty-year-old, honor student, and a pitcher on his college baseball team when he lost his life to meningitis fourteen years ago. I met his mother, Lynn Bozoff, during an immunization conference I attended when I first began writing for Shot of Prevention. I remember when we were first introduced. Lynn briefly told me how she had lost her son and how this inspired her to become the founder of the National Meningitis Association to raise awareness about meningococcal disease, its symptoms, and prevention.

She delivered those words to me like I’m sure she had done a thousand times before, and a thousand times since. They were concise and to the point. While I couldn’t tell from the gentle expression on her face, I knew inside her heart was breaking. I remember feeling an uncomfortable lump in my throat as I thought about my own children and realized the pain she must live with day after day.

I’ve come to know Lynn a bit better over the years, but I will never fully understand the depths of her sorrow. In her latest effort to spread awareness about meningitis, she wrote a touching article on Voices for Vaccines which explains what Evan endured.

“Over twenty-six days, in three different hospitals, meningococcal disease ravaged Evan’s body. Amputations of both arms and legs were not enough to save his life. He lost kidney and liver function, suffered ten hours of grand mal seizures, and was eventually declared brain dead. No parent should have to watch his or her child be disconnected from life support, flat-line, and be carried away.”

Lynn explains that she had always been a mom who vaccinated her children, but at that time she just didn’t know that there was a vaccine for meningococcal meningitis. Nowadays, thanks in part to organizations like National Meningitis Association and Every Child By Two, parents can learn more about the vaccines that are available to protect their children. Through the efforts of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Council of Immunization Practices (ACIP), vaccine recommendations are constantly being evaluated, and when needed expanded, in an effort to save the lives of children like Evan.

Currently, meningococcal disease can be prevented by the MCV4 and MPSV4 vaccines. While MCV4 is recommended for certain high risk children from ages 9 months through 10 years, the more common schedule includes a recommendation that all 11-12 years olds be vaccinated and a booster dose administered at 16 years of age to cover the period between 16 and 21 when the risk of death from meningococcal disease is at its peak.

Interestingly enough, last year there was considerable debate surrounding the approval of a new infant meningitis vaccine. On June 14, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration licensed Hib-MenCY-TT for the prevention of invasive Hib and serogroups C and Y meningococcal disease in children aged 6 weeks through 18 months. While the vaccine was deemed safe and approved for use, the decision to add the vaccine to the recommended infant schedule would involve considerations that extended beyond safety. Immunization experts had various factors to consider.

First, the vaccine didn’t contain the serogroup B, which means that a significant number of infant cases would not have been prevented, even with good vaccine coverage. To add to this, in reviewing the disease trends, it was determined that there had recently been a reduction of incidence of the disease in infants, which may or may not have been a result of the increase in overall adolescent vaccination. It was then projected that routine vaccination would prevent about 25% of cases in infants, which translates to a total of 44 cases and approximately 2-4 deaths per year. As far as public policy goes, the number was not deemed significant enough to warrant routine vaccination of an entire population. However, in October 2012, the ACIP voted to recommend the use of Hib-MenCY-TT in infants at increased risk for meningococcal disease. It is now expected that by summer 2013 the vaccine will begin to be available through the Vaccine for Children Program.

Since many interested parents followed along with these policy decisions, it’s not surprising to recognize that some parents still want to get their children vaccinated, even if the vaccine is not a part of the recommended schedule. Just yesterday, a mother questioned a group of vaccine advocates as to how she might be able to ensure her son gets this vaccine, even though he does not fall within the high risk category. She realizes that it will not be covered by her insurance, but she does not want to take the risk, no matter how small, that her child may suffer from something that could have been prevented; which is a testament to the work that people like Lynn Bozoff continues to do in educating the public about this deadly disease.

Lynn does not share her story to gain sympathy from others. She tells her story in hopes that parents will be better informed to make the choice to protect their children in every way possible. Even if that means going above and beyond what is considered normal and “recommended”.

She reminds us,

“The bottom line is that our son did not have to die. There were vaccines available that could have saved his life, but we were not told about them.”

Currently, various states are enacting legislation governing meningitis vaccination. This includes Texas and more recently Tennessee, where they are working towards legislation that would require college students who live on campus to receive a meningitis vaccine in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Evan’s story.  If you would like to be alerted to various immunization legislation efforts in your state, be sure to sign up to Get Involved here.

By educating parents about their choices, we hope that they will also consider Lynn’s concerns:

“I am not scared of vaccines. I am scared about what happens when parents choose not to immunize.”

  1. March 14, 2013 at 8:24 am

    A beautiful tribute to Ryan…I hope folks will be inspired to join in pushing legislation requiring meningitis vaccine in his name. It’s hard enough to lose a child, but for parents like Lynn and Frankie Milly who also lost a teenage son, it must be so frustrating to have to push for laws that already exist for the childhood schedule.

    Like

  2. Lauren @ the VEC
    March 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    The Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also has resources to learn more about meningococcal disease and the vaccine that prevents it, including a cool video by college students for college students about why they should get immunized: http://www.chop.edu/service/parents-possessing-accessing-communicating-knowledge-about-vaccines/age-groups-and-vaccines/age-groups-and-vaccines-teenagers-13-to-20-years.html#college.

    Also, check out our website (http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/a-look-at-each-vaccine/meningococcus-vaccine.html) or print our Q and A sheet (http://www.chop.edu/export/download/pdfs/articles/vaccine-education-center/meningococcus.pdf)

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  3. John Fryer
    March 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Vaccines are an essential in the fight for our health. A vaccine would certainly have saved this boy from an agonising death. Meningitis has fallen with vaccination but at the same time the illness now strikes people at a more advanced age. While people are still exposed to this bug it does present a dilemma therefore. Saving a lot of illness at a young age for less illness at older ages.

    Also it is known that one in five have this bug already but it remains harmless. Another dilemma in that a healthy person has little to fear and only by reducing our health are we then vulnerable.

    At times of war the figures have spiked showing clearly that when good hygiene and good food is lacking there are epidemics and not just for this disease.

    Personally the use of GMO food in USA including aspartame produced by GMO using E Coli presents an easier way to reverse our decline in health. E Coli has been linked to this illness, so the increasing practice of GMO food with benefit to the farmer (reduced costs) but possibly lower health for those eating the food is an indirect way forward. Good food for good health.

    There are other ways including vaccines therefore to reduce risk but elimination is the goal which needs to be achieved and this comes from eternal vigilance and must include vaccination to contain any outbreaks.

    Sadly mass vaccination for all may actually lead to more cases than without mass vaccination. The current situation for the US military where cases exceed that of the US public is one example of this.

    There are no simple answers except to hope we are not the ones to get this rare illness and if we do to hope for the normal and uneventful recovery.

    Like

  4. Chris
    March 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    And as usual, the standard response to any comment by Mr. Fryer: citation needed.

    Like

  5. novalox
    March 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    @Chris

    Given john’s prior posting history, it is doubtful that he will actually muster an actual scientific citiation.

    Like

  6. Mike
    March 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    And it is doubtful that novalox will add anything to the conversation.

    Like

  7. novalox
    March 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Hmm.. had a few comments disappear into the ether, oh well

    At least I know that mike must like me, for he has to resort to insults right away.

    Thank you very much mike, please keep it coming, I do need a good laugh.

    Like

  8. Mike
    March 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    You go it….I’ll keep watching for any good input you have on anything. Maybe, I’ll count the days and see how long it takes. I will send out a congratulations when you actually provide useful information. Any bets on the over/under?

    Like

  9. novalox
    March 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    @mike

    Thank you again for your admission that you have nothing to contribute here. You provide me with some good laughs, keep trying troll.

    Again, do you have something to say about the meningitis vaccine? If you do not say anything regarding the meningitis vaccine within 3 posts, you admit that you are a troll with nothing better to do than to honor me by attempt half-witted insults.

    Anyways, what I was saying above with the posts that disappeared was that soon after my sister was born, she came down with bacterial meningitis. For 1 week, the doctors and nurses fought to save her life, and I remember the doctor saying that she was 50-50. Luckily, my sister survived, and that convinced me to get a meningitis vaccine when I was ready to go to college.

    I do think that vulnerable infants should get the vaccine, since it would help to prevent getting the most common serotypes of bacterial meningitis.

    Like

  10. novalox
    March 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    @mike

    I win.

    Please send a check to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to help populations in third world countries get vaccinated, please.

    Like

  11. Mike
    March 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS novalox!

    Like

  12. novalox
    March 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    @mike

    OK, now please send a check in the amount of $10 to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in your name, to help populations in third world countries get vaccinated.

    I’ll be waiting.

    Like

  13. Mike
    March 14, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I’ll send one to AutismOne instead.

    Like

  14. Chris
    March 15, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Mike, why? One particular meningitis vaccine are for those living in college dorms. Isn’t autism diagnosed before high school?

    Like

  15. novalox
    March 15, 2013 at 2:03 am

    @mike

    Nice try mike. Guess you are trying to renege on the bet. If you do not send a check to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in your name to help populations in third world countries get vaccinated, we know that you are a liar and have come here in dishonesty.

    Like

  16. Mike
    March 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Chris….that’s what I choose to do. You donate money where you wish.

    novalox….we never had an agreement, and I am making a donation for fun. You must be delusional.

    Like

  17. novalox
    March 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    @mike

    Ok, so you have proven to not be a man/woman of your word, and therefore, proven that you are not an honest person. Therefore, we can consider your word to mean nothing.

    Nice try at the attempted insult as well.

    Guess since you will not keep your word at all, I will make a donation in your name instead.

    Like

  18. Chris
    March 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Mike, do you seriously believe that a teenager will become autistic from getting a meningitis vaccine prior to moving into a college dorm?

    Like

  19. March 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    @Chris – yes, I’ve never understood why people have a problem with vaccines that are given later in childhood? I mean, isn’t their theory that its the early vaccines that are the problem (the birth – 18 month ones) – despite all evidence to the contrary, of course?

    Like

  20. Mike
    March 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    novalox….. my word? What exactly was my word? You are delusional.

    Chris…. This has nothing to do with my donation.

    Lawrence….if people believe vaccines contribute to autism in younger kids, then they would think vaccines are dangerous for the young or old. Maybe not autism when older, but what?

    Like

  21. Lawrence
    March 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    @mike – yes, what exactly? Where is the evidence of harm?

    Because the disease kills….the vaccine, not.

    Like

  22. novalox
    March 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    @mike

    So you admit that you cannot keep your word? Nice to know that you cannot be trusted, and a general liar.

    BTW, I will write a check in your name, so be happy that a liar and anti-vaxxer like you will have some money donated in your name to a actual worthy cause that will do some actual good instead towards a conference that promotes pseudoscience and harm towards children.

    Like

  23. Extinct101
    March 26, 2013 at 2:17 am

    Meningitis is a symptom, not a disease. And Hib is not what causes it and never has. Spirochetal prion proteins infections are the cause of disease today and is infecting over 80% of the worlds pop.s Hib vaccines do NOT inhibit you from getting Hib. What it does is allows those infections to go unchecked in immune system who does not recognize them as foreign. So then the drug companies can make you pay them more millions for more junk just to treat the thousands of symptoms in the SYNDROMES they have caused. They are doing nothing but committing Crimes Against Humanity knowing they infected everyone in spirochetal immortal cell lines used for vaccines in the immune suppression causeing hundreds of syndromes, cancers, and psych disease they have caused and should be charged and sentenced as such.

    At least ONE country who will stop the pandemic that is the real AIDS.

    Like

  24. March 26, 2013 at 2:33 am

    @Extinct – youtube videos aren’t science, nor are they evidence (or facts).

    I find your lack of basic scientific and biological understanding disturbing.

    Like

  25. novalox
    March 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

    @extinct101

    [citation needed].

    Like

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