WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Meningitis Angels:
A broad coalition of organizations – made up of patient groups, consumer advocates, health professionals, and members of the immunization community – joined together on Capitol Hill to encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recommend life-saving infant meningococcal vaccines, which will be available for the first time, pending FDA approval.
In the coming months, CDC will decide whether to add the vaccines to the routine infant schedule, a recommendation that would trigger coverage by the federal Vaccines for Children Program and insurance companies – a key step toward making sure all children are protected.
"The CDC has always been a champion of vaccines and made the right decisions about giving all families access to vaccines," said Frankie Milley, founder and president of Meningitis Angels. "I am hopeful that with this coalition's encouragement, CDC will decide next year to protect infants as young as 2-months-old against meningitis."
"We are asking the CDC to place meningitis vaccines on the routine immunization schedule for infants. If it does this, the vaccine will be covered by the Vaccines for Children Program, which protects underserved communities and many minority populations around the country," said Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. "It is important to ensure that these new vaccines are not accessible only to a small group of wealthy Americans. We need to make it accessible to everyone for it to be effective."
A total of 12 organizations agreed to sign onto a letter urging the CDC's vaccine advisory panel to continue its long history of promoting policies that protect America's children and recommend new infant meningitis vaccines. The groups include the Amputee Coalition; Association of Clinicians for the Underserved; Hawaii Immunization Coalition; Hispanic Leadership Fund; Kentucky School Nurses Association; Meningitis Angels; Meningitis Foundation of America; National Association of School Nurses; National Consumers League; National Pharmacy Technicians Association; Voices for America's Children; and Wisconsin Association of School Nurses.
"Health leaders and organizations know that a routine immunization recommendation is necessary to ensure that vaccines remain within reach of all families in the United States – regardless of insurance coverage or income," the organizations wrote. "Without a full recommendation, insurance companies will not cover the infant meningitis shots, the federal Vaccine for Children program may not pay for them and physicians are much less likely to administer them. This is an unacceptable outcome, particularly for those who have seen the horrors of meningitis first-hand."
Bacterial meningitis is a deadly disease that can kill in as quickly as four hours. One in seven people who contract the disease will die, and of those who survive one in six will suffer lifelong complications including amputations, facial disfigurement, mental retardation, learning disabilities, deafness, blindness and more.
Current meningococcal vaccines are approved for Americans ages 2 to 55. However infants, who account for 35 percent of all meningitis cases in the U.S., are still at risk. The FDA has recently approved one vaccine as safe and effective for children down to 9 months and is currently reviewing additional vaccines that could gain approval for children down to 2 months.
"The CDC has never failed to recommend a vaccine that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. So this should be a very easy lift for the CDC," said Lopez. "We understand that there may be some concerns about health care costs and there are a myriad of ways to improve efficiencies, but children's vaccines are not a good place to start making cuts."
This summer the CDC held four public engagement meetings around the United States. In polls conducted at the meetings, health professionals and the concerned public voted overwhelming (70 percent) for the CDC to offer a routine recommendation for new infant meningitis vaccines.
For facts on meningitis and information on how to get involved and encourage the CDC to protect infants from this deadly disease, please visit www.protectinfantsnow.org or check out the Protect Infants Now cause page on Facebook.
Meningitis Angels' mission is to support families who are affected by meningitis, educate the public, health professionals, child care facilities, schools and universities on meningitis and other vaccine-preventable diseases through personal stories, educational brochures, posters and videos.
For information on Meningitis Angels, please visit http://meningitis-angels.com
SOURCE Meningitis Angels