With so many things to take care of as a new school is here, it would be easy – but potentially tragic – for parents to skip over one simple preparation that literally could save their child’s life.
I cannot stress enough that vaccinations should be a parent’s first priority because, ten years ago, I lost my daughter to bacterial meningitis. Her name was Lawson, and she was a healthy 18-year-old with a wonderful life ahead of her. The terrible disease took her from us in just 36 hours, and this devastating loss changed our family forever. My hope is that we can prevent other families from experiencing a similarly horrific loss from meningitis through prevention, education and awareness. That’s what keeps me going.
Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It spreads rapidly in close quarters, such as college dorms, and can hide behind flu-like symptoms like high fever, headache, vomiting, and a purple skin rash. Even in less severe cases, it can cause long-term disabilities – and in the worst cases, it can be fatal in just days.
This is a dangerous disease that needs to be taken quite seriously. Currently, the state of Florida requires a meningococcal vaccine for students as they begin living in on-campus housing at state universities. But many students and parents don’t realize that the required vaccine does not cover the meningitis B strain of this potentially devastating disease, the strain responsible for too many tragic cases.
Each year, there are new cases of meningitis at our state universities. Many of the cases could have been prevented through vaccination. To protect our young people, we need to take steps that make effective vaccinations our top priority. Recently passed legislation requiring providers to enter a child’s immunization records into an immunization registry is a big step.
Currently, all students new to Florida schools must provide a Florida certified immunization record before they start school. Students entering kindergarten must have completed the recommended immunization series, and students entering 7th grade must do that and submit an updated Florida certified immunization record.
It’s time for parents to contact their health care providers to ensure that their children are protected from this insidious disease. When they receive vaccinations, students are also protecting others from infection – and families from possible heartbreak.
As a mother who lost her daughter to bacterial meningitis, I want parents to know how important it is that every Floridian have access to meningitis vaccinations and understand how vital they are in keeping our young people healthy and safe.
Cathy Mayfield is a Tallahassee resident who lost her daughter to bacterial meningitis in 2009.