Molly Ringwald has spent her career starring in teen-driven movies and TV shows filled with fun fictional storylines. Now, she’s shining a light on a serious issue for adolescents in the real world: meningococcal meningitis.
The Breakfast Club actress has teamed up with the National Meningitis Association to raise awareness for the disease — and the vaccine that can prevent it from causing any harm.
“I think a lot of people aren’t even aware of meningococcal meningitis, which is a rare but deadly bacterial infection that can take a life in as little as 24 hours,” Ringwald tells us. “Many parents are focused on getting kids vaccinated when they’re babies or still younger. By the time the teen years roll around, there’s so many other things going on — it’s one of those things that can fall through the cracks.”
Ringwald is referring to the MenACWY vaccine which is given in two doses: first at around 11 or 12, then another at 16. “The second dose is so crucial for making sure that your child is protected against the disease,” she says. “Teens are particularly vulnerable because they’re, you know, in small places, they’re doing team sports, they’re going to parties, they’re sharing beverages. So it’s really, really important to make sure that they’re protected before they go off to college.”
The actress was moved to spread the word after hearing from Leslie Maier, President of the National Meningitis Association, who lost her son to the disease when he was 17. “My son had a headache one day and the next day, we lost him. He died of meningococcal meningitis,” Maier explains. “We thought it was the flu — he just had a headache and fever. As he prepared to go to the doctor, he couldn’t feel his feet. It was only later that I learned the vaccine could have saved his life.”
You can hear more from Maier and Ringwald in the video below:
“As a mother of a teenage girl and 11-year-old twins, my twins have been vaccinated with their first dose and my older daughter (17) has had her second dose,” Ringwald shares with us. “It is rare, but you don’t want to be the one person that it did happen to. Just because something is rare doesn’t mean you are safe from it.”
Maier adds, “We just want our kids to have happy, long, healthy lives. No one wants to lose their child. As a parent who lost her son and didn’t know anything about it, I want other parents not to go through what I went through… I wish I had known more about it. My son would be alive today.”
Ringwald and Maier urge parents to visit The16Vaccine.org to learn more about the vaccination and talk with their doctors about how it could save their children’s lives.