Help Save Children's Lives: It's National Immunization Awareness Month

No child should have to suffer the fate of Ethan Boone and Bobbi Jules, the little boy and girl pictured here, who both battled and suffered through meningitis. And no parent should have to suffer the fate of Frankie Milley, who lost her only son to a violent death from meningitis just after his 18th birthday. And so, in recognition of August as National Immunization Awareness Month, the patient advocacy group that Milley founded, Meningitis Angels, is launching an online petition to provide people across the country the opportunity to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to add life-saving infant meningitis vaccines to the routine infant immunization schedule.

Why the petition? Last month, the CDC concluded a four-city public meeting tour to gather input on whether or not it should add FDA-approved meningitis vaccines to the existing recommended immunization schedule. While nearly 70 percent of all the regional hearing participants voted in favor of adding meningococcal vaccine to the schedule for infants and recommended that all children be vaccinated, Milley realized an online petition would provide a great opportunity for those unable to attend the CDC meetings to weigh in on the discussion.

Jeremiah Mitchell, meningitis survivorJeremiah Mitchell, meningitis survivorJeremiah Mitchell, meningitis survivor -- before and after his illness.

"Public input in this discussion is absolutely necessary," said Milley. "But with meetings in only four cities, there is a huge contingent of the public who were not able to voice their concern and support for these vaccines. We're launching a petition at www.protectinfantsnow.org so that concerned citizens nationwide, especially parents, can have their opinion heard and ensure that children's lives are saved."

A few important facts:

*Infants suffer from 35 percent of all cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S.

*While the FDA has already approved one infant meningitis vaccine and is expected to approve others in the coming months, the CDC is undecided about whether to add these life-saving vaccines to the routine infant immunization schedule.

*Doing so would ensure that the federal government and insurance companies will cover shots for all families, including low-income and traditionally underserved communities.

"The public also needs to know that a routine recommendation does not mean a mandate," added Milley. "It means that all families will have access to that vaccine, whether they are insured or not, and that doctors will gain knowledge about and access to that vaccine."

So, this August, as we take our children shopping for for school supplies and new shoes, Milley asks that parents add an item to their back-to-school checklist: "National Immunization Awareness Month is the perfect time to make sure all children are protected against preventable disease, including our smallest, most vulnerable and voiceless victims - infants."

Protect Infants NOWProtect Infants NOW

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.

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