This guest post was provided by the National Meningitis Foundation (NMA) and first appeared on their Parents Who Protect blog.
As our obsession with basketball’s March Madness has progressed to the Final Four, our efforts to encourage “both shots” in the fight against meningococcal disease remain at center court.
While March is a time when basketball steals the headlines, it’s also a time when meningococcal disease steals our children. In fact, while meningococcal disease can strike at any time of year, the number of cases peaks in the winter and early spring. Unfortunately, for many National Meningitis Association (NMA) members, such as the member of Moms on Meningitis (M.O.M.) and Together Educating About Meningitis (T.E.A.M), March is a time when we remember those we lost to meningococcal disease.
- N.M.A. board member, Leslie Maier lost her son Chris on March 2nd
- M.O.M. Judy Miller lost her daughter Beth on March 12th
And there have been plenty of others who never got their “shot” at life.
The higher incidence of meningococcal disease in March can be seen in the headlines of the last few years.
In March 2014, a Drexel University student died after visiting Princeton University, which was nearing the end of an outbreak that impacted eight students. In 2015, the University of Oregon was battling an outbreak of meningococcal disease with two additional cases appearing in March. In 2016, students at both Penn State and Rutgers University were hospitalized with meningococcal disease in March. This year there were cases on three college campuses by mid-March: Wake Forest University, Old Dominion University, and Oregon State University. There has also been an outbreak, at an elementary school in Virginia.
To rise to the challenge of this other recurring “March Madness”, we must increase our efforts to raise awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention.
There are two kinds of vaccines that students need to be protected from meningococcal disease, the MenACWY vaccine and the MenB vaccine.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination against serogroups A, C, W and Y for all children at 11-12 with a booster at age 16 (MenACWY).
- CDC recommends permissive use of meningococcal vaccination against serogroup B at ages 16-23, with a preferred age of 16 to 18 years (MenB). (Click here for more information.)
It’s important that students remain vigilant and be able to recognize the symptoms of meningococcal disease including headache, fever, stiff neck, and a purplish rash, so that you can promptly seek medical attention.
This March, let’s get on the ball and take “both shots” to prevent the other March Madness.
The National Meningitis Association is a nonprofit organization founded by parents whose children have died or live with permanent disabilities from meningococcal disease. Their mission is to educate people about meningococcal disease and its prevention. To stay informed about meningococcal disease and how to prevent it, follow The National Meningitis Association on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to subscribe to their Parents Who Protect blog.
Teens and young adults have a tendency to believe they’re completely invincible. But their lifestyle – which often involves high levels of stress, inadequate amounts of sleep and close living quarters – can put them at an increased risk of certain infections such as flu, mumps, meningitis and HPV. As students return to class after winter break, they’re reunited with classmates, roommates, and professors who may have been exposed to infectious diseases during their travels to other states or other countries.
While it’s impossible to prevent every cough and sniffle, parents can help protect their kids by ensuring they’re up-to-date on all their recommended vaccines.
So what are all the vaccines that are recommended for teens and young adults?
And wouldn’t they be required for school anyway?
Vaccine requirements vary by state and don’t necessarily include all the vaccines that the CDC recommends. Therefore, as winter break come to an end, parents should review their students’ immunization records and arrange for them to get any missing shots before they return to class.
Here are a few of the diseases that students should be protected against.
Influenza is a dangerous viral infection that causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year in the U.S., even among health people of all ages. For the best protection, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an annual influenza vaccine.
Unfortunately, while flu vaccination rates are typically the highest among children, rates tend to drop among teens and young adults. If your college student hasn’t already received their annual flu vaccine it’s not too late. Bring them to their healthcare provider or local pharmacy to get them protected before they return to campus. Although it can take up to two weeks to develop antibodies post-vaccination, flu season often extends well into Spring, so students will benefit from protection for many months to come.
Mumps may not be considered “common” in the U.S. thanks to a 99% decrease in mumps cases once mumps vaccination began in 1967, but there have been several mumps outbreaks on college campuses in the past year, and approximately 4,258 cases across 46 states and DC in 2016.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that crowded environments, such a large classes and dormitory living can all contribute to the likelihood of outbreaks. Also, since mumps is spread primarily through saliva, coughing and sneezing, teen behaviors such as kissing or sharing plates, utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, are all factors that can increase the likelihood of transmission. Read more…
Every Child By Two’s online platforms have reached over 11 million people with evidence based vaccine messaging in 2016. As we look back at the record number of views and shares there have been on Shot of Prevention blog posts this past year, we’re especially grateful to our blog readers, contributors and subscribers.
Whether you have shared a post, shared your story, or shared your expertise, know that our growth and success would not have been possible without your support. Thanks to you, people are referencing our content before making important immunization decisions for themselves and their families. In these final days of 2016, we hope that you will revisit these top five posts from the past year and share them with others in your social networks. Together, we can continue to engage more people in these important immunization discussions.
In 1949, Judith contracted polio along with 42,000 other people in the U.S. Judith survived five months in the hospital and multiple surgeries, but sadly 2,720 people died from polio that year. As Judith bravely shares her story, she explains that it represents an inconvenient truth to people who are in denial about the risks of polio. She is continually shocked by people who refuse vaccines, who refuse to believe she ever suffered with polio, or who actually believe the polio vaccine is part of a government or “big pharma” conspiracy. By sharing Judith’s story we hope to encourage continued polio vaccination and support of polio eradication worldwide and applaud people like Judith who are courageous enough to speak out in support of vaccines. To read Judith’s story, click here.
Emily Stillman was pronounced brain-dead just 30 hours from the onset of a severe headache. What they though was a migraine turned out to be meningococcal disease. In this post Emily’s mother Alicia explains that although Emily received a meningococcal vaccine, the MCV4 vaccine she received only protected her against meningococcal serogroups A, C, W and Y. It did not protect her against serogroup B, which is what caused Emily’s death. Since Emily’s death, a MenB vaccine has been approved for use. However, most parents still don’t know it exists and therefore, most students are still not protected.
As the Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation, Alicia Stillman helps educate people about the importance of “complete and total” protection against all serogroups of meningococcal disease. This means ensuring that teens and young adults receive both meningococcal vaccines; the MCV4 vaccine that protects against serogroups A,C, W and Y, as well as a MenB vaccine series. To learn more about fully protecting our youth against meningococcal disease, read Alicia’s guest blog here.
Although the HPV vaccine is one of the most effective ways we have to prevent numerous types of cancer, it is still being grossly underutilized. As a result of persistent but inaccurate myths circulating on the internet, some parents are more fearful of the HPV vaccine than the human papillomavirus itself. This is causing them to refuse or delay HPV vaccination for their children.
In this popular blog post, we highlight ten critical facts that address the most common misconceptions about HPV infection and the vaccine that can help prevent this very common infection. To learn more, be sure to read the post here.
There are many misconceptions about hepatitis B and how the infection is transmitted. Because of this, many parents don’t consider their children to be at risk of infection and so they question the need for a hepatitis B vaccine at birth. In this post, the Prevent Cancer Foundation explains the connection between hepatitis B and liver cancer and discusses ways in which infants and children can unknowingly contract hepatitis B. Their Think About the Link™ education campaign suggests that vaccinating infants before they leave the hospital is a critical first step in protecting your newborn from a virus that can lead to cancer later in life. To learn more about Hepatitis B and the vaccine to prevent it, click here.
Back in the 1980’s, Barbara Loe Fisher claimed that the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP) was dangerous and causing too many adverse events. Her complaints prompted the development of the more purified (acellular) pertussis vaccines that we use today; DTaP for infants, and Tdap for adolescents and adults. While studies have shown that these newer vaccines are not as effective as the old whole cell pertussis vaccine, they are the best protections we have against the dangers of pertussis.
Unfortunately, those who need protection the most are those who are too young to be vaccinated. Infants are at high risk of severe complications from pertussis, to include hospitalization and death, but babies don’t begin receiving pertussis vaccine until two months of age. After newborn Calle Van Tornhout contracted pertussis from a hospital nurse at birth, she died at just 37 days of age. Callie’s death has had her home state of Indiana considering a bill that would mandate pertussis vaccination among health care workers. But Barbara Loe Fisher is opposed to that as well. To read more about the history of pertussis vaccines, click here.
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Parents often go to great lengths to help their children succeed in college. What they may not realize is that their children often arrive on campus unprotected from a life threatening, yet preventable disease known as meningococcal serogroup B.
Four women, known as the ‘MenB Strong Moms’, became united on a mission to save others after their teen children died from meningococcal serogroup B before a vaccine was available to prevent the disease. Through a special partnership between The Kimberly Coffey Foundation and The Emily Stillman Foundation, they produced the following Meningitis B Shatters Dreams PSA to educate young adults and their parents about the availability of the MenB vaccine and to encourage college kids to get vaccinated while home for winter break.
“Our kids have brought us together and their message is loud and clear in this PSA.” says Alicia Stillman, Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation. “We don’t want parents to have to bury their children like we have, and we want kids to take it upon themselves to get protected and ask for the MenB vaccine.”
In the past few years, there have been outbreaks of meningococcal serogroup B on several U.S. college campuses. This isn’t surprising considering that one out of ten people have the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease. Additionally, typical teen behaviors, such as living in close quarters, hanging out in large groups, sharing drinks or utensils, and kissing, all increase the risk of meningococcal disease.
And when meningococcal disease strikes, it strikes quickly. In fact, one in ten teens and young adults who develop meningococcal disease will die from it, sometimes within 24 hours. Those lucky enough to survive will often suffer significant physical and mental disabilities, ranging from deafness, nervous system problems, brain damage, or loss of limbs.
While most teens receive the recommended meningococcal vaccine known as MenACWY at age 16, or prior to attending college, the MenACWY vaccine does not prevent the serogroup B strain. Since this B strain accounts for approximately half of all meningococcal cases in the U.S. among those age 17-22, the MenB Strong Moms believe it is imperative that young adults and their parents understand the options for prevention. Unfortunately, although the MenB vaccine has been licensed for over a year, many doctors are still not mentioning it to their patients and therefore, most parents and young adults don’t realize the vaccine exists. Read more…
Every Child By Two’s State of the ImmUnion campaign is honoring National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM16) with a Blog Relay highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan and across the nation.
In this guest post, we hear from Heidi Parker, MA, Executive Director of Immunize Nevada. She reminds us that promoting health and preventing disease is not just a cause to recognize during the month of August; instead, it is something we need to do each and every day.
By Heidi Parker, MA, Executive Director of Immunize Nevada
Dr. Donald A. Henderson passed away recently, with little media attention or fanfare. This is alarming, considering “saving millions of lives” was listed as one of his life accomplishments.
In case you’re wondering who he is, Dr. Henderson led the global effort to eradicate smallpox — a disease that, in the 20th century and before it was extinguished, was blamed for at least 300 million deaths. Clearly, his triumph over smallpox proved the power of vaccines.
During National Immunization Awareness Month, we are reminded that promoting health and preventing disease is not just a cause to recognize during the month of August; instead, it is something we need to do each and every day.
We must be relentless, much like Dr. Henderson was. Why? Because our news feeds continue to be filled with stories of vaccine-preventable diseases – a teen dies from meningococcal disease; a summer camp closes due to a whooping cough outbreak; college campuses battle mumps; measles spreads at music festivals; an infant too young to be vaccinated dies from pertussis; the list goes on.
In the United States, vaccines have reduced — and in some cases, eliminated — many of the diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. My great-grandfather died during the 1918 Influenza Flu Pandemic, along with millions of others; but decades later, our family is protected from this deadly virus when we get our annual flu shot. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically decreased, and birth defects associated with that virus are now rarely seen. Countless examples like these demonstrate, day after day, vaccines are one of public health’s greatest achievements.
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Americans still suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, and even die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Read more…
As a mother and a nurse, I was vigilant in having both of my children up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations, including meningococcal vaccination. I was under the common misconception, as many parents are, that the meningococcal vaccine that my daughter received would fully protect her from meningococcal disease, when in fact, it didn’t protect her against meningitis B. The meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) only protects against four of the five common groups (ACWY), leaving adolescents and young adults vulnerable to meningitis B. Meningitis B is a type of bacterial meningitis, also known as meningococcal disease, which is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can kill a healthy person within 24 hours.
When my daughter Kimberly Coffey died in 2012 from bacterial meningitis, a vaccine was not available to protect her. But since 2014, meningitis B vaccination has been available in the United States. Kimberly was a perfectly healthy 17-year-old high school senior, and I believe she would be alive today if meningitis B vaccination had been available to her.
I established The Kimberly Coffey Foundation in Kimberly’s honor to educate other parents and health care providers about meningitis B, also known as MenB.
It’s critical that parents know that MenB vaccination is now available, and that without requesting MenB vaccination in addition to the common meningococcal vaccine (MCV4), their child will not be fully protected against meningococcal disease and MenB.
The Kimberly Coffey Foundation has partnered with Pfizer on the National Meningococcal Disease Awareness Survey to gain a better understanding of parents’ knowledge of meningococcal disease and its available vaccines. This 2016 survey revealed that nearly 4 out of 5 parents didn’t know their child wasn’t fully immunized against the five common groups of meningococcal disease unless they had two meningococcal vaccines (MCV4 and MenB).
The bottom line is this – without adding MenB vaccination, we are going to lose more lives. There will continue to be more college outbreaks, especially since MenB has been responsible for several recent college outbreaks in the United States. According to data released by the CDC, MenB currently accounts for approximately 50% of meningococcal disease in the United States among persons aged 17-22 years old. MenB vaccination is available for individuals ages 10-25, and public health insurance and most private insurance plans provide coverage. However, your child’s provider may not mention it.
I want parents to have the knowledge to request MenB vaccination, in addition to the meningococcal vaccine, so that their children can potentially be fully protected against this devastating disease.
As a mother who lives every day with the heartache of not seeing my beautiful daughter live the full life she deserved, I know only too well how important MenB vaccination is. My daughter Kimberly’s life was one too many lost to this terrible disease.
I will be Kimberly’s voice as I continue to promote awareness of meningococcal disease, which includes MenB. I don’t ever want another parent to experience what I have. And more important, I don’t want another person to experience what Kimberly did when she battled for her life.
Kimberly contracted MenB two years too early—two years before the MenB vaccine was made available. She didn’t have the protection of the MenB vaccination, but your children can. Please protect your children – because YOU can.
For more information about meningitis B and the MenB vaccine, please visit the Kimberly Coffey Foundation at www.kimberlycoffeyfoundation.org.
Every Child By Two (host of the Shot of Prevention blog) welcomes guest blog posts on a variety of vaccine related issues. The views and opinions expressed in these guest posts do not necessarily represent the views of the Every Child By Two organization.
After losing her son Evan to meningococcal disease, Lynn Bozof’s life became a mission to prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedies. She has since co-founded the National Meningitis Association (NMA), to help educate people about the dangers of meningococcal disease. In this special State of the ImmUnion post, Lynn addresses some of the most common questions parents have asked her about meningococcal disease and the ways it can be prevented.
How would you describe the current “State of the ImmUnion” for meningococcal disease? How many cases of meningococcal disease are there in a typical year? Are enough people protected?
In the 14 years since NMA was founded, vaccination rates have climbed steadily while disease incidence has declined. Although we are pleased with this progress, there is much more work to be done to strengthen the State of the ImmUnion.
Annually, there are approximately 800-1200 cases of meningococcal disease in the United States. As an organization comprised of survivors and families who have lost children to this devastating disease, we at NMA know that one case is too many.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely recommends meningococcal vaccines beginning at age 11-12, one in five U.S. teens are not vaccinated as recommended and one-third of those who get the first dose don’t go on to get their booster dose. This leaves adolescents unprotected as they enter some of their most vulnerable years.
What can parents do to protect their families from meningococcal disease?
As a parent who lost my college-age son, Evan, to meningococcal disease, I urge all parents to make sure their child is vaccinated. Vaccination offers the best protection against this disease, and parents should understand that to be fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease, your child should receive two kinds of meningococcal vaccines.
There are five major serogroups of meningococcal disease: A, C, W, Y and B.
MenACWY Vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination against serogroups A, C, W and Y for all children at 11-12, with a booster at age 16.
MenB Vaccine: After the FDA approved this vaccine in 2014, the CDC made a permissive recommendation for children ages 16-23, with a preferred age of 16 to 18 years.
Because it behaves somewhat differently, the B serogroup was not included in the ACWY vaccine, and it took longer for scientists to design an effective vaccine.
Today, nearly half (43 percent) of all meningococcal disease cases among U.S. teens and young adults are caused by serogroup B. Since MenB is a relatively new vaccine, and not routinely recommended, many parents and healthcare professionals remain unaware of this vaccine. This is particularly concerning since it’s the most common cause of meningococcal disease in adolescents and the cause of several outbreaks on college campuses in recent years. This is why we urge parents to have a conversation with your child’s doctor to ensure your child is fully vaccinated.
My doctor never mentioned a separate vaccine for serogroup B? Why is that?
While the MenACWY vaccine has been routinely recommended since 2005, the MenB vaccine received FDA approval in 2014. That is not to say this is a “new” vaccine. The MenB vaccine has been used in other countries for many years already, and safety and efficacy data from these countries has been extensively reviewed by the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP). After FDA approval in the U.S., the Committee gave this vaccine a permissive or “category B” recommendation. Unlike a routine recommendation, this recommendation puts more responsibility on parents to request the vaccine, which is why it is important to be proactive and ask your doctor about it.
Are there certain people who should be particularly concerned about meningococcal disease? How easily does it spread?
Vaccines are recommended for adolescents and young adults because they are at higher risk of contracting meningococcal disease.
The following factors increase the risk of disease: being an adolescent or young adult, spending time in large crowds like parties or dorms, and participating in behaviors like kissing or sharing drinks. But, anyone at any age can contract it.
Other people who are at higher risk for the disease include:
- Infants under 1 year of age
- People living in crowded settings like college dorms or military barracks
- People living with HIV
- Those with persistent complement component deficiency or anatomic or functional asplenia
- People traveling to certain areas outside the U.S. such as the meningitis belt in Africa
- Laboratory personnel who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
- Those who might have been exposed to meningococcal disease during an outbreak
Meningococcal disease is contagious. It is spread through the exchange of respiratory secretions during close contact such as kissing, sharing drinks or coughing on someone. Although meningococcal bacteria are very dangerous, they cannot live outside the body for very long. This means the infection is not as easily spread as a cold virus. About one in ten people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease. These people can unknowingly transmit the bacteria to others.
Of those who contract the disease, 1 in 10 will die and 2 in 10 will suffer from long term complications, including deafness, brain damage, or limb amputations.