Life threatening, but preventable
To the Editor:
As a member of the National Meningitis Association’s (NMA) Moms on Meningitis (MOMs) program, I have made it my mission to help educate others about the importance of meningococcal disease, a life-threatening but potentially preventable bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis and sepsis. Saturday, April 24 is World Meningitis Day, and I ask you to join us and help spread the word of this terrible disease.
Adolescents and young adults are at greater risk for meningococcal disease, but the majority of these cases can potentially be prevented through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends meningococcal vaccination for all adolescents 11 through 18 years of age.
Meningococcal disease is a rare but sometimes deadly infection that strikes quickly and has devastating complications, including hearing loss, brain damage, limb amputations, loss of kidney function, and even death. Early symptoms of the disease can be mistaken for the flu and include, sudden high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and in some cases, people may develop a rash.
A fact sheet about meningococcal disease can be downloaded on the NMA’s website: www.nmaus.org.
And after four years of effort, I am pleased to announce the passage of LD1408, An Act to Establish the Universal Childhood Immunization Program. This bill adds no cost to the taxpayer, but will increase the number of our children that will be protected while reducing health costs due to avoidance of vaccine-preventable disease.
This legislation means that children in Maine won’t face the barrier of gaining access to life-saving vaccines and parents will no longer have to worry about whether or not to vaccinate out of concern for what is or isn’t subject to their policy’s deductible. Primary care providers will now be able to spend more time on patient care and less on administrative hassles and the DCD will be able to reduce vaccine wastage through the administrative simplification offered through a singular universal approach to childhood vaccines.
It has taken the collaborative effort of many and I would be remiss in not mentioning those who have worked so tirelessly: The Maine Primary Care Association; Dr. Dora Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and her staff; the Maine Medical Association; the American Academy of Pediatrics — Maine Chapter; the Maine Osteopathic Association; the Maine Association of Health Plans; the Maine Chamber of Commerce; the Maine Children’s Alliance; the Maine Public Health Association; Representative Gary Connor; and vaccine manufacturers, among others. Special appreciation to Dr. Larry Losey and Dr. Syd Sewall who provided steadfast support and the pediatrician perspective, as well as Peter Smith from the Maine CDC. It is with heartfelt thanks that we also recognize Gov. John Baldacci, and all members of the House and Senate for their thoughtful deliberations. Thank you so very much.
Jeri Brooks Greenwell