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NFID Expands Educational Efforts To Reach Racial, Ethnic Families About Dangers of Meningitis

Newly Published Call to Action Highlights Need to Reduce Disparities in Meningococcal Vaccination; Increase Educational Efforts

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 2/PRNewswire/ --The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' (NFID) S.T.O.P. (Share. Teach. Outreach. Protect.) Meningitis! coalition, composed of many of the nation's leading medical and advocacy organizations, recently issued a Call to Action to improve adolescent meningococcal vaccination rates and to reduce immunization disparities among racial and ethnic groups and other underserved populations.

"Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that progresses rapidly and often leads to death or long-term health consequences," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID Medical Director and Vice Chair, Department of Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic. "To ensure adolescents across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups are protected from this devastating disease, increased efforts are needed to reduce disparities and educate families about the benefits of meningococcal vaccination."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination for all adolescents 11-18 years of age and college freshmen living in dormitories (only one vaccination is needed). While recent CDC data shows an increase in the number of teens receiving meningococcal vaccination (up from 11.7% in 2006 to 32.4% in 2007), immunization rates still remain low with only a third of pre-teens and teens having been vaccinated. These data show there is a considerable amount of work to do in helping teens and their parents understand the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination.

A recent survey conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of NFID to assess meningococcal disease awareness among African American, Hispanic and Caucasian parents of children ages 11 to 21 showed only 27 percent of Hispanic parents, 31 percent of African American parents and 41 percent of Caucasian parents believe their children are at risk for meningococcal disease, or meningitis. In addition, 58 percent of African American parents, 49 percent of Hispanic parents, and 49 percent of Caucasian parentsdid not know there is a vaccine available to help prevent the disease. However, once made aware of the availability of the vaccine, the majority indicated they would have their adolescent immunized.

The Call to Action, entitled "Improving Meningococcal Vaccination Rates in Adolescents and Reducing Racial, Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities," discusses disparities in meningococcal disease awareness among certain racial and ethnic groups. The piece also identifies barriers to immunization and outlines strategies to increase meningococcal vaccination rates among all adolescents.

To assist health care providers in reaching underserved, at-risk populations,the Call to Action outlines strategies for addressing the needs of diverse groups and increasing immunization rates. These strategies include:

  • Implementation of educational programs concerning meningococcal disease, including offering materials and services for non-English speaking parents and patients
  • Ensuring equal access to vaccines for all adolescents by utilizing all medical visits and alternative sites (schools, pharmacies) as opportunities for vaccination as well as implementing in-practice standing orders
  • Removing financial barriers to immunization by informing parents of children eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program about the availability of free vaccine to protect their child from meningococcal disease

The Call to Action was developed following a meeting of NFID's S.T.O.P. Meningitis! coalition, which includes the following medical and advocacy organizations: the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College Health Association, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, National Asian Women's Health Organization, National Association of County & City Health Officials, National Association of School Nurses, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Meningitis Association, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine. The goals of S.T.O.P. Meningitis! are supported by the CDC.

The Call to Action can be accessed on the NFID Web site at Also available on the Web site are downloadable resource materials to support implementation of in-practice meningococcal immunization programs. These materials are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Cambodian, Loatian, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese.

About Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a potentially life-threatening infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The disease affects an estimated 1,400 to 2,800 persons in the U.S. each year. Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all cases. Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose since early symptoms resemble the flu. Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and/or a rash. Nearly 15 percent of adolescents infected with the disease will die. Of those who survive, about 20 percent will be left with permanent disabilities, such as limb amputations, organ failure or hearing loss. The majority of meningococcal disease cases among adolescents and young adults can potentially be prevented through immunization.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

NFID's S.T.O.P. Meningitis! (Share. Teach. Outreach. Protect.) coalition is dedicated to providing health care providers with in-practice resources to implement the CDC's meningococcal immunization recommendations and educate patients about meningococcal disease and vaccination. NFID's S.T.O.P. Meningitis! initiative is made possible by an unrestricted educational grant to NFID from sanofi pasteur.

SOURCE National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
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