Next week, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to decide whether to recommend the bacterial meningitis vaccine to infants and children -- the population most at risk for contracting meningitis. Given how dangerous this disease is, there’s no excuse not to protect as many people as possible from bacterial meningitis.
No one knows this better than me. I contracted bacterial meningitis as a child, and while I escaped with my life, I lost all of my fingers and most of my feet, and spent months in the hospital. I don’t want any other children to have to experience something similar.
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis typically appear suddenly and resemble the flu, but bacterial meningitis is far more deadly: in some cases, it can kill within hours, and those who survive, like me, often suffer serious complications including lost limbs, brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. It can be spread through casual contact, putting tight-knit communities and groups of people who live and interact in close quarters at greater risk.
Thankfully, a bacterial meningitis vaccine is available that is safe and effective. And there’s no reason not to make it available for children and infants.
We know that bacterial meningitis is dangerous, but we also know that it can be contained when the public health response is proactive and aggressive. Earlier this year, 16,000 people in NYC alone sought out a meningitis vaccine after a dangerous outbreak spread within the LGBT community. Since that aggressive vaccination campaign, no new cases of this deadly disease have been reported within the LGBT community.
It’s that type of strong will that we need right now from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s why I’m urging you to join with me and John Becker, who received the meningitis vaccine earlier this year amidst the public health scare, to call on the CDC to expand access to the vaccination by recommending it for children and infants.
Please sign this petition to urge the ACIP to add the bacterial meningitis vaccine to its list of recommended vaccines for infants and children.
Bacterial meningitis is an incredibly dangerous disease that has affected the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community since 2001. In New York City, 22 men have been infected with the disease, and seven have died. Other deaths have been reported in gay communities in California and Utah.
Thankfully, a bacterial meningitis vaccine is available that is safe and effective. The LGBT community knows this firsthand – officials in New York City and other cities with large gay populations began a vaccination program after a surge in new cases in the fall and winter of 2012. At least 16,000 people received the bacterial meningitis vaccine in New York City alone, through a campaign conducted at gay bars, public events, and through web-based marketing. Because of this aggressive approach to vaccination, no new cases of this deadly disease have been reported in NYC since February of 2013 – the longest the city has gone without a new case in more than a year.
The current CDC recommendations for the bacterial meningitis vaccine leave one critical group dangerously unprotected: infants and children. This is particularly alarming given the fact that the infection rate for invasive meningococcal disease is the highest for children under the age of one year.
Vaccinating babies and small children against bacterial meningitis will make children and families safer, including the more than 115,000 same-sex households with children in the United States. It will increase herd immunity by helping to prevent the spread of the disease, particularly to those with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV and AIDS. In short, it will protect children and save lives.
The LGBT community has seen the devastating impact bacterial meningitis can have, and we know all too well how health crises can spread and become epidemics. The best approach to fighting bacterial meningitis is to ensure that the vaccine is made available to everyone.
I urge you to do just that – please recommend the bacterial meningitis vaccine for babies and small children.