50 Phone Calls: Our Kids Deserve To #BVaccinated
Imagine receiving a phone call. Your child is in the hospital with a serious infection. In the few short hours it takes you to arrive at her bedside, she is now so sick that she cannot speak. She needs machines to help her breathe, blood transfusions, and aggressive antibiotics. Tubing, pumps, and monitors surround her. She is fighting for her life.
But you just talked to her yesterday. She said she was just coming down with a cold….
Parents of young adults infected with serogroup B bacterial meningitis often share this same haunting story. Sadly, fifty* more parents in the US will get this phone call in the upcoming year.
We commonly hear about meningitis striking college campuses, having devastating effects on American youth who have been infected. In the last few years, the KC area has not been spared. We experienced a fatal case of meningitis in Madison County, and other cases at University of Missouri and the University of Kansas where the students thankfully survived.
Although most of my families know meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease, many parents do not know the meningitis vaccine commonly given to our middle and high school students protects against only 4 members of the bacterial meningitis “family.” A fifth member of the "family" remains responsible for 1/3 of meningitis cases in young adults – and is not part of the commonly administered vaccine.
Today’s great news is that we now have FDA-approved vaccines with the ability to protect against a fifth "family" member, serogroup B (MenB).
The MenB vaccines work. They are safe. And they can prevent those 50 phone calls.
Our challenge today, however, is that these new vaccines are only available to very specific individuals, leaving the vast majority of young adults unprotected. The next step is for the CDC to fulfill their role in the regulatory process so these vaccines can be made available to the public to prevent outbreaks.
I strongly encourage the ACIP and CDC to allow these vaccines to be made available to the broadest possible population. Increased vaccination rates will proactively reduce the chance for outbreaks here in Kansas City, statewide, and nationwide. As a parent and pediatrician, this approval is of upmost importance in combating the threat of meningitis in our communities.
And fifty families are counting on it.