In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, NMA President Lynn Bozof recently wrote a guest blog post for the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University (MHA@GW). Throughout the month of August, it will feature pieces from thought leaders and advocates from the immunization community who can speak to the importance of immunization. Below is an excerpt and you can click the link to read the full post:
Vaccines have saved millions of lives, but there’s one life that they could not save — a life that will always be in my heart. My son who lost his life because he was not vaccinated.
My story started 17 years ago. My son Evan was a junior at Georgia Southwestern University, a pitcher for his college baseball team and in excellent health. On a Wednesday morning in March, Evan called to say he had a terrible migraine headache. When the symptoms worsened, I suggested he go to the emergency room. Hours later, he was in intensive care.
Evan had meningococcal meningitis, a multi-syllabic disease that kills rapidly, without mercy. For weeks, Evan struggled to fight the infection. We were surrounded by doctors and medical teams. We clung to any indication that he might live. But one complication followed another — extremely low blood pressure, damage to the lungs and liver, gangrene of the limbs followed by amputation of all his limbs, seizures and finally, irreversible brain damage. Evan died 26 days after his first phone call to us.
Meningococcal disease, also known as bacterial meningitis, is difficult to say but simple to prevent with a vaccine. Meningitis kills 10 to 15 percent of the people who get it. About 20 percent of those who survive will suffer serious, long-term complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function or amputations.
When my son died, there were no routine recommendations for meningococcal vaccination. Now, in part because of years of advocacy from awareness groups and families, we have recommendations in place to protect adolescents and young adults. I have been personally so thrilled each time a meningococcal vaccine has been recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) External link. It doesn’t change the course of my story, but it creates an opportunity to change the story for you and so many others…