GSK (LSE: GSK) today launched an educational campaign to help raise awareness of meningitis, a rare but potentially deadly disease. Most teens and young adults have not received the vaccines needed to help protect against all five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis. The campaign, Take 5 for Meningitis, will use news media, social media and educational events to help educate parents and young adults about meningitis and urge them to talk to their healthcare provider about vaccination to help prevent it.
There are five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis—A, B, C, W, and Y—and two types of vaccines to help protect against these groups. While most young people (70 percent) have received the vaccine that helps protect against meningitis groups A, C, W and Y, less than 10 percent have received the vaccine to that helps prevent against meningitis B. Meningitis B causes approximately 30 percent of the cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S. and meningitis B vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for young people ages 16-23 years. The Take 5 campaign is intended to help increase immunization rates against meningitis B.
Jamie Schanbaum, a U.S. Paralympic cyclist and meningitis survivor, helped launch the campaign along with world-renowned photographer Anne Geddes and Dr. Len Friedland, Vice President, Director Scientific Affairs and Public Health, Vaccines North America for GSK, at BlogHer 2016 in Los Angeles, an annual conference of more than 3,500 bloggers and media.
"I was in my first semester at my dream college when I learned one of the hardest lessons of my life. What I first thought was the flu turned out to be meningitis and I ended up losing all of my fingers and both legs below the knees." said Schanbaum. "When it comes to meningitis, what you don't know can hurt you. That's why I have joined with GSK in this effort to educate others about meningitis. I urge everyone to take five minutes to learn the facts and what they can do to help prevent it."
One in 10 people infected with meningitis B will die, while one in five survivors will suffer long-term disability, such as loss of limbs, brain damage, deafness and nervous system problems.
"While vaccines are the best way to help prevent this rare but potentially devastating disease, knowledge is power in this case," said Dr. Friedland. "Research shows that 88 percent of parents whose children have received a meningitis vaccine don't know which serogroups of the disease their child is vaccinated against. We are working to build awareness and help prevent this terrible disease."
Young people particularly are at risk because they live, work and play in places that put them in close contact with each other, such as schools, sports teams, clubs, camps, college dorms and military housing. Vaccines are the best protection against meningitis as it is often difficult to treat and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, or can cause life-long disability.
Through the campaign, Schanbuam and Nick Springer, a U.S. Paralympian wheel chair rugby player and another meningitis survivor, will tell their own stories of survival to help educate on the importance of vaccination.
"Meningitis changed my entire life when I was just a kid. I lost most of my legs and arms and later learned that there was a vaccine that might have protected me against the disease," said Springer. "No one should have to go through what I've gone through and that's why I'm working with GSK to tell my story."
GSK has launched a website where parents and young people can learn about meningococcal meningitis, the risk factors, how it can be spread, the symptoms, the impact of the disease, and how teens and young adults can help protect themselves. Visit www.meningitis.com for more information and additional resources.
Take 5 for Meningitis complements GSK's larger effort—Win for Meningitis—a global campaign to build awareness about meningitis and the vaccines available to help prevent it.