New US poll shows most parents (83%) want their teens and young adults to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease

- Less than half of parents say they have talked to their child about how the disease is spread or its early symptoms

- In 2015, meningococcal disease cases have been reported on college campuses across the US

May 19, 2015, 07:46 ET from GlaxoSmithKline

PHILADELPHIA, May 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- GlaxoSmithKline (@GSKUS) today announced the results of an online consumer poll, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of GSK, of US parents with children ages 16 to 21 years, and young people of the same age range, gauging the knowledge of and attitudes related to meningococcal disease*. Results from this new, national poll serve as a reminder to parents and high school/college-aged individuals to talk to a healthcare professional to learn if meningococcal disease vaccination is right for them, and determine how to get up to date on vaccinations this summer. US adolescents/young adults are at greater risk for contracting meningococcal disease due to increased likelihood of being in community settings that foster close contact with people (e.g., residence halls, military and other camps).

Key findings of the Harris online poll include:

  • The majority of parents (83%) report wanting their children to be vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable serogroups of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. The five serogroups of bacteria that cause the overwhelming majority of cases in the US are A, B, C, W-135 and Y.
  • Less than half of parents say they have talked to their child about how the disease is spread (42%) or its early symptoms (38%).
  • Less than half of young people (49%) know that meningococcal disease can lead to serious health complications, which may include hospitalization, hearing loss or amputation.
  • Only about one third of young people (35%) correctly identified college students as a high risk group for the disease. Only 22% know that it is possible to die within 24 hours of early symptoms.
  • Of those parents whose child has been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, 88% don't know which serogroups of bacteria their child is vaccinated against.

"Most parents start thinking about getting their children's vaccinations up to date as an August 'to-do.' However, these findings should encourage parents to start thinking about meningococcal disease vaccination now," said Dr. Leonard Friedland, VP, Scientific Affairs and Public Health, GSK Vaccines, North America. "Recent cases of meningococcal disease on several US college campuses have underscored the threat that the disease poses to our young people, and serve as a reminder of how quickly vaccine-preventable meningococcal disease can lead to very serious complications."

Results also showed that only one in ten parents (13%) believe their child would get all doses of a meningococcal disease vaccine on their own, without their parents' presence or guidance. Since most meningococcal vaccines require more than one dose, parents are encouraged to start a conversation with their healthcare professional at the close of the school year to prepare their high school/college-aged children for the fall semester.

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection that is difficult to diagnose and can leave those affected with lifelong disability within 24 hours of symptom onset. Even with antibiotic treatment, as many as 12% of people infected with meningococcal disease will die. In 2015 alone, cases have been reported in students on college campuses.

Most cases of meningococcal disease occur in previously healthy people without any warning. Meningococcal disease can be difficult to diagnose, as initial symptoms can be similar to flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, severe headache and painfully stiff neck. Meningococcal bacteria can be passed between people through coughing, sneezing and direct contact, such as kissing.

Anne Geddes, global advocate for children, and advocate for the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life vaccination campaign, adds, "I have met and photographed countless families and individuals whose lives have been forever changed in an instant by meningococcal disease, which they couldn't have seen coming. Every life lost, every family affected, is one too many, now that we have vaccines to help prevent this disease. I urge parents to speak with their children's healthcare providers to understand vaccine options, and to learn the signs and symptoms of this swift-moving disease."

Current US vaccine guidelines recommend routine vaccination to help protect against meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y for all persons aged 11 through 18 years as well as those at increased risk for meningococcal disease.

Resources are available for families to educate themselves about meningococcal disease. Parents and high school/college-aged individuals can visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website ( for more information on meningococcal disease prevention as well as its early signs and symptoms. Importantly, parents and older children should also speak with their healthcare providers to determine if vaccination is right for them.

About the Poll
The online poll was conducted by Harris Poll, from February 2-11, 2015 among 1,018 US parents with at least one child aged 16-21 years old in their household and 521 young people of the same age range. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, education and region were weighted where necessary to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the US population. Propensity score weighting was adjusted for respondents' propensity to be online.

*Note: Respondents were informed that questions about serogroups referred to different strains of meningococcal bacteria. Meningococcal disease, which can manifest as bacterial meningitis, can refer to any illness that is caused by these bacteria. Poll questions referred to the disease as "meningitis" to maximize respondent comprehension and recall. 

Anne Geddes is a paid spokesperson for GSK. To learn more about her meningococcal disease advocacy work, visit

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