On this World Meningitis Day, we join our voice with others across the globe to raise awareness among more parents, adolescents, and health care professionals about the risks of meningococcal meningitis and the importance of vaccination. Even though raising awareness is critically important, it is taking that extra step‒moving from awareness to concrete action‒that will ultimately help us achieve a world where no teen has to suffer from the potential devastation that can result from meningitis.
Every year, far too many teens in the U.S. are diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. Yet this isn’t the only vaccine-preventable disease affecting adolescents. Cases of HPV infection, which can cause cancer later in life,1 and flu, whose seriousness is often underestimated, still occur due to under- vaccination or failure to get vaccinated altogether.
In my current role at Sanofi Pasteur, and as a primary care physician by training, a past public health official, and, most importantly, as a father of three, I am a staunch advocate for vaccination. So it should come as no surprise that I encourage other parents to see that their children get vaccinated against serious diseases, just as I’ve done (and will continue to do) for my own children. As vaccination coverage estimates clearly reveal, more work needs to be done to raise awareness and motivate parents and HCPs alike to prioritize immunization, including immunization against diseases such as meningococcal meningitis.
It’s encouraging to know that tremendous strides were taken this past year toward helping protect more teens from this disease. In particular, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently updated the 2017 Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule to include a specific 16-year-old immunization platform visit.2 This change will help see that more 16-year-olds receive necessary immunizations to help protect them against meningococcal meningitis and other serious infectious diseases.
Additionally, organizations such as the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) are each taking action to champion the importance of vaccination and highlight the updated CDC recommendations. To help improve adolescent vaccination rates, drive awareness and identify solutions, efforts such as the Adolescent Immunization Initiative, an IAC and Sanofi Pasteur collaboration, are taking place.
At Sanofi Pasteur, we’re doing our part through continued disease awareness efforts, ongoing development of educational resources and tools for healthcare professionals, and more collaborations than ever with nearly a dozen medical and professional organizations in an effort to help maximize vaccination.
This year marks the 120th Anniversary of Sanofi Pasteur’s Swiftwater site, and as part of this rich history, is a legacy of helping fight bacterial meningitis that dates back more than 40 years. As the largest company dedicated entirely to vaccines, Sanofi Pasteur remains committed to addressing the needs of public health. On this World Meningitis Day, I’m even more proud to be part of a company that not only believes in a world where no one suffers or dies from a vaccine-preventable disease, but is steadfast in turning that belief into a reality.
Please raise your voice with mine and the voices of others to increase awareness of meningitis and the ways to help prevent it!
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015, September 30). Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The Link Between HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/cancer.html.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger, UNITED STATES, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-combined-schedule-bw.pdf.