Eighties icon Molly Ringwald partners with campaign urging parents to vaccinate their teens, and it’s not for COVID-19.
It was 2005 and Jonathan DeGuzman was just a regular college student.
“The thing I remember is I was turning in my psychology paper for our final exam. And at that time, I was headed home and I was experiencing flu-like symptoms,” recalled DeGuzman.
DeGuzman’s symptoms quickly progressed and soon he was in and out of consciousness with his parents rushing him to the hospital.
“And then all of a sudden, I just blacked out … and then I all of a sudden woke up and my mom and my dad were there,” he said. “They didn’t think I would wake up. … They told me that I was 12 days in a coma … then my mom told me that day that I woke up, they were actually planning my funeral.”
DeGuzman soon learned he had acquired meningococcal disease, or bacterial meningitis — a condition he’d never even heard of — a disease that resulted in the amputation of all 10 of his fingers and both legs below the knee. He was lucky to survive since the disease can be fatal within 24 hours. Now he is part of a campaign to educate families about the dangers of bacterial meningitis, as well as the vaccine.
“It’s a cautionary tale to really put the word out there,” he said. “This can be prevented and there is a vaccine available.”
The National Meningitis Association (NMA) started The 16 Vaccine campaign to remind parents about the importance of getting their teens vaccinated with the second dose of the MenACWY vaccine for meningococcal disease. According to the group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a first dose of the MenACWY vaccine at ages 11 to 12 years old and a second dose at 16. However, it’s estimated that about half of teens in the United States have missed this second dose.
To help raise awareness, the campaign has partnered with ‘80s teen icon Molly Ringwald to help encourage families to speak with their doctors about getting that second dose. Ringwald recently spoke with the Orange County PTA about the vaccine.
“I felt like I was in a unique position to sort of do some good,” Ringwald told Parenting OC. “Most parents are pretty good about getting their kid the first one … and then by the time they’re 16 … there’s just so much going on that that one sort of falls through the cracks.
“As a parent myself, my elder daughter had both of her vaccinations and when my twins turn 16, they’ll get their second one as well.”
Pediatrician Dr. Oliver T. Brooks, who is part of the campaign, said the pandemic has added another challenge to vaccination.
“There’s studies that show that 40 percent of the surveyed said that they have delayed or they had problems getting their children vaccinated because of the pandemic,” said Brooks. “So that’s a major concern. … It’s imperative that we have this push now. COVID is here but meningococcal infection did not go away.”
Ringwald said she feels the campaign has been reaching people.
“This is something that I feel really strongly about as a parent,” she said. “There’s so [many] scary, dangerous things out there. But let’s take care of the things that we actually can take care of.”
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Meningococcal Disease Facts
Source: National Meningitis Association
- 10 to 15 out of every 100 people who get meningococcal disease will die.
- Up to 1 in 5 people who survive meningococcal disease will have long-term disabilities, including limb amputations, deafness, brain damage and issues with kidney function.
- Those at a higher risk include adolescents and young adults, infants and people living in crowded settings like college dorms.
- For more information, visit the16vaccine.org.
By Jessica Peralta