How and Why Advocates Work for Policy Change
There are many ways that M.O.M.s and T.E.A.M. members work to fulfill NMA’s mission to protect families from the potentially devastating effects of meningococcal disease by educating the public, medical professionals and others about the disease and its prevention.
A few NMA M.O.M.s and T.E.A.M. members focus their efforts on supporting the implementation of meningococcal vaccination and education policies in their states.
When NMA was founded in 2002 there weren’t even routine recommendations for meningococcal vaccination, let alone any state-based requirements. However, in the past five months alone, three states passed bills related to meningococcal disease vaccination. That brings the current total of states that require vaccination or education about meningococcal disease to 43.
These requirements can make a big impact. Sometimes people don’t make prevention a priority. They may believe they’re young and healthy and don’t think that something like this couldn’t happen to them. Sometimes teens are busy and they simply forget. Studies have shown that the states with the highest meningococcal vaccination rates tend to have one or more vaccination requirements for school entry.
We asked a few advocates who helped successfully bring meningococcal disease prevention polices to their home state to share their experiences. Their responses reflected how difficult and rewarding influencing policy can be.
One thing that was universal is that advocates take on this challenge to save lives:
“It’s amazing to feel like I did something that encourages the safety of children in my state.” – T.E.A.M. Member Samantha Bennett
“Knowing that this bill could save lives and save a family from going through our pain is all the motivation that I needed.” – M.O.M. Cindy Krejny
“Rob should not have died, but I couldn’t save Rob so I said I’m going to attack this disease that took his life and I’m going to focus on prevention. What’s going to make a lawmaker listen is your story. That story will get the point across, it takes small steps.” – M.O.M. Jeri Acosta
However they also told us that getting a bill passed can take a lot of patience and hard work:
“Over 10 years ago I testified for the first bill, which was a [vaccination] bill but got shot down to an education bill. The second time the new bill passed through the Senate and got stalled in the House Heath Committee and time ran out. This bill which I also testified on was just passed through and signed by the governor on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Be persistent.” – M.O.M. Cindy
“I couldn’t have done it alone, before you testify you want to make enough noise to get it [the bill] assigned to a committee.” —M.O.M. Jeri
“I kept motivated by constantly keeping in touch. Even if it was just writing something on Twitter and using hashtags. I kept in touch with everyone I knew was a part of passing a bill in my state. I never said “no” to an invitation to any events. I made sure I was available and ready to go.” – T.E.A.M. member Samantha
And that sometimes when it’s over, the feeling can be bittersweet:
“When Arizona became the first state to mandate the meningococcal vaccine, I was elated but also sad. I knew other families would not lose their precious children to this terrible disease but that it was due to the loss of my special son.” – M.O.M. and NMA Board Member Leslie Maier
We’ve come a long way. Thanks to the work of advocates like Cindy, Jeri, Leslie and Samantha, many more preteens and teens will be protected from this terrible disease. Of course there’s still more work to be done and if their stories inspire you we encourage you to contact your representatives!