Actress Lucy Hale Doesn't Need Her Own Kids to Urge Moms to Vaccinate

lucy haleWe've seen her grow up on television as one of the main stars of Pretty Little Liars, but Lucy Hale is taking on a different role these days. The star is spreading awareness of meningococcal meningitis and the vaccines that prevent it through a brand new take on the Voices of Meningitis. She doesn't have kids of her own, but after meeting a college student who nearly died of meningitis, Hale joined with the non-profit's Boost the Volume competition.

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Now the singer and actress is challenging high school a capella groups across the country perform songs that stress the importance of booster vaccinations.

Meningococcal meningitis can take the life of an otherwise healthy person in less than 24 hours, according to Sally Schoessler, a nurse with the National Association of School Nurses. "And because it's a vaccine-preventable disease, one case is one too many," she adds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a meningococcal vaccine for all kids ages 11 or 12, and a booster shot once they're 16 to 18 since the effects of the vaccine wane after about five years. But studies show, not many teens actually receive the booster. The CDC reports that approximately 78 percent of teens 13-17 received the first shot. As for the second? Only about 30 percent.

That's where the Voices of Meningitis' Boost the Volume campaign comes in. The organization has challenged high schools across the country to try out for an a capella musical competition where groups perform mash-ups of "Best Day of My Life" and "Good Life." And Hale will be there to perform with the winning group in a show for their classmates, parents, and teachers.

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The Stir sat down with the actress to speak about her passion for vaccines:

We've seen you grow up on Pretty Little Liars over the years. What inspired you to take on this cause?
I knew about the disease, I knew that it could be fatal, and that it's a very dangerous and serious disease, but I didn't know until I met  [college student and meningitis survivor] Jamie [Schanbaum] and got involved with the whole campaign just how preventable it can be. I'm aware of my fan base and that I have a lot of teens that are supporting me -- and that's the age group that we're trying to target here. They're the ones who are doing everyday activities to contract this disease, and I just thought that I actually have a voice in this situation to actually make a difference. We're trying to at least, hopefully, save one life.

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Vaccines are a hotly debated topic among parents and have been controversial over the years. Why put yourself right in the middle of the debate?
It's an interesting topic to talk about. For me, my mom's a nurse, and just being raised in a house with my mom as a nurse and being aware that vaccinations can prevent you from really scary diseases. It's as simple as that. I look at statistics; I look at the facts. Meningococcal meningitis is preventable with the first and second vaccine. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion and what they want to do with their children and themselves, but for me, that's just how I was raised.

What were you like as a child when Mom would take you to the doctor to get a shot? Any fond memories of the pediatrician's office?
For me, it was "whatever Mom says, goes!" because that's just for anything. I knew my mom was a nurse and I knew she knew best, so I went along with it. Actually, when I was 16, the CDC hadn't yet recommended the second vaccination, so I got it later on in life, because for me, facts are facts and that's one less thing to worry about. I feel lucky that I grew up with a mom who knew health and knew what was best for me.

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Over the years, you've been very open about your own health struggles, especially your battle with an eating disorder. What really prompted you to take charge of your health?
Obviously, good parenting. I think we all struggle with something, whatever it is, and I feel really lucky that it never got to a point where it was that dangerous. For me, it was all mental and I wanted to be happy and live my best life. The whole motto of the Boost the Volume campaign is to put your best step forward and live life the best way you can.

For more information about Boost the Volume, visit BoostTheVolume.com and check out the winning video performances below:

 

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