Half of American Teens Are at Risk of Deadly Disease

vaccineI still remember the day my mom woke me up, told me to roll over, and a needle was jabbed in my arm. That's how you get immunized for meningococcal meningitis when you're a nurse's kid. Call it tough love, but hey, at least she bothered to protect me. Which is more than can be said for the parents of HALF of America's teenagers.

Literally. HALF the teens in our first-world-nation haven't been taken to the pediatrician for a shot that could save their lives one day. I only wish I was fear-mongering.


Meningococcal meningitis, though rare, is most prevalent among teenagers -- mostly kids 16 to 21. That's probably because it's passed from person-to-person via close contact -- kissing (hello teenagers), living in the same dorm room (college kids), sharing drinks. A survey by the National Association of School Nurses estimates 82 percent of kids engage in the sorts of activities that transfer this type of bacteria EVERY DAY. All it takes is doing it one day with a sick kid, and your kid could be sick with meningitis (swelling of the brain or spinal cord) or meningococcemia (blood infection).

There is treatment -- antibiotics reduce the risk of death to below 15 percent -- but they have to be started early. One in five survivors is still left with serious side effects (amputation of limbs, brain damage, deafness, and organ damage). So what's the point of waiting that long? The CDC recommends the meningococcal vaccination for preteens and teens beginning at age 11, with a booster dose by 18. Then your kids are safe. No muss, no fuss, no call from your weepy, whiny child that they don't feel good.

So why aren't parents lining up? I hate to call y'all lazy, but come on. It's not like I'm asking you to do it yourself.

Teenagers are easier to take to the doctor! You don't have to pack a diaper bag. You don't have to worry about changing a diaper and toting it back home because the pediatrician won't let you throw it in their garbage (true story). And you don't have to spend a bundle at the dollar store on bribes to get them to sit up on the table like a good little monkey.

Are you scheduling an appointment now? Or do your teens already have their shot? 


Image via Daniel Paquet/Flickr

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