August, the month that many of our children head back to school, is National Immunization Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control develop and update immunization materials that can be used to reach out and educate the public about the importance of vaccines for all age groups. I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss one vaccine and one illness, in particular, as another school year begins.
Every year, as Dr. Q and I are seeing your 11 and 12 year old preteens for their required tetanus boosters, she and I mention a second vaccine, Menactra, which is not required by our local public schools, but is recommended for all children age eleven and older, with a booster recommended after age sixteen. Menactra vaccinates children against the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, Neisseria meningititis, in individuals in the second and third decade of life. Menactra vaccine was developed after Dr. Q and I finished our residencies in the 90's. We saw the full effect of this disease on the pediatric population, as we were training. While it may not seem very significant a vaccine to parents, especially because it is not "required", Dr. Q and I can attest to the fact that this type of meningitis is as deadly and debilitating, if not more so, than many of the other diseases we vaccinate against.
10% of the over 1,000 individuals who contract this disease each year, will die . Others may lose limbs, sight, hearing and organ function. The local news will report outbreaks when they occur, most often on high school or college campuses. Contracting this disease will likely mean an admission to the ICU, being placed on life support, and if one survives, a protracted stay of weeks to months in the ICU. Dr. Q and I have taken care of patients with this disease during our training and know they are some of the most critical individuals we have seen.
Please learn about this disease so you'll be ready to vaccinate your children when the time comes. Check out Voices of Meningitis. Ask us if your child, 11 and older has been vaccinated against this deadly disease.
For more information on Vaccines see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention