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.
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 fourth guest post, we learn how Maine has made great strides in stepping up the state’s vaccination rates for infants, babies and young children to at or above national levels. But when it comes to adolescents, Maine – like many other states – still has some catching up to do.
At Vax Maine Kids, they’re working hard to make sure parents know how to protect their childrenfrom several serious illnesses that can strike during the teen years.
This guest post by Franklin Health Pediatrics pediatrician, Dr. Gabe Civiello, highlights the importance of vaccines for preteens and teens and explains what Maine is doing to improve adolescent immunization rates.
By Gabriel Civiello, MD in collaboration with Vax Maine Kids
Healthcare providers all across Maine are celebrating the recent rebound in vaccination rates for our youngest children. In fact, our childhood immunization rates rank among the highest in the country. According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, over 85% of Maine toddlers are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations, and kindergarten non-medical exemption requests fell to 3.9% during the 2014-2015 school year.
The trends aren’t quite as positive for Maine’s preteens and teens, however. Nationwide, as children grow into their preteen and teen years, under immunization becomes much more common—and Maine is no exception. In fact, Maine’s vaccination rates for the meningococcal vaccine and the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine are below the national average and the lowest in New England. Following the national trend, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rates in Maine are at least half of the rates of the other adolescent vaccines.
Why are immunization rates lower for Maine teens?
- Preteens and teens have lower attendance at well child visits. If they aren’t seeing their healthcare provider on a regular basis, they and their parents aren’t being reminded of the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule (and the importance of sticking to it). When teens see a provider solely for sick visits or emergencies, vaccinations may not come up in the discussion as often as they should.
- Critical vaccines for teens are not required for school attendance in Maine. Teens are allowed to attend school without getting the meningococcal vaccine and the HPV vaccine, and Maine is one of only three states that doesn’t require the Tdap vaccine. By leaving these vaccines out of school requirements, parents may get the impression that their children don’t need them.
- The HPV vaccine remains as poorly understood and under-utilized (by families and providers), in Maine as it is elsewhere in the country. We aren’t communicating the importance of safely vaccinating adolescents against the common cancers caused by the HPV virus before they become sexually active as well as we could.
There is good news for Maine teens in the NIS data, however. Our HPV vaccination rates are higher than the national average. This tells us that Maine parents and providers want to protect our children all the way into adulthood, and that HPV vaccine rates will likely improve with better communication about the vaccine.
Which diseases threaten Maine teens, and which vaccines can protect them?
There are four vaccines that are routinely recommended for all preteens between 11 and 12 years of age. Teens also need a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine at age 16, and teens may also need additional vaccines based on risk factors, travel, or if they missed previous doses. The vaccines routinely recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:
- Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults. Two doses are needed for full protection.
- HPV vaccine, which protects against several types of HPV. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in females and cancers of the penis in males. In both females and males, HPV infection can also lead to head/neck cancers, anal cancer and genital warts. Three doses are needed for full protection.
- Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. Infants, for whom pertussis can be deadly, are often infected by an older sibling or adult. A Tdap vaccine is recommended between the ages of 11-12 (with boosters for tetanus and diphtheria (Td) needed every 10 years throughout adulthood).
- Flu vaccine, because even healthy kids can get influenza, and it can be serious. All preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year.