For 26 days, Lynn Bozof sat helplessly by her son Evan’s side while a bacterial infection called meningococcal disease took his life. Evan was a college athlete who planned to become a doctor. Lynn had never heard of meningococcal disease and was shocked to learn that a vaccine might have prevented Evan’s death.
She recalls thinking that the only thing worse than losing a child was learning that Evan’s death was unnecessary. She met other parents whose children had died or lived with permanent disabilities from meningococcal disease. Together they formed the National Meningitis Association (NMA) with the hopes that other families could avoid the devastation they experienced.
This year, marks NMA’s 10-year anniversary. When NMA was founded:
• There was little public knowledge about meningococcal disease.
• Recommendations for adolescent meningococcal vaccination were not in place.
• No organized support structure existed for families affected by meningococcal disease.
Much has changed in 10 years:
• Vaccination is recommended by the CDC for all preteens and teens.
• Many states now require vaccination for adolescents or education of families and college students about prevention.
• Vaccination rates have climbed steadily in recent years.
• NMA has built an important support network for families who have suffered from the impacts of meningococcal disease.
Lynn Bozof, co-founder and president of the National Meningitis Association, will be available for telephone interviews on Friday, April 20. She’ll be joined by Jeri Acosta, who lost her son Robert in 2006. Jeri will be honored by the NMA during its 10-year Anniversary gala on April 23rd. She is part of NMA’s Moms on Meningitis (M.O.M.s) program, which comprises more than 50 M.O.M.s in over 30 states.
Improvements in meningococcal disease awareness and vaccination rates are the result of work by many dedicated organizations and advocates. Lynn is thrilled that NMA is among them. Yet, she knows there is more work to be done. Four in ten adolescents remain unvaccinated, and many families are unaware that a booster for teens was recently added to the vaccination schedule. For more information, listeners can visit www.nmaus.org.