The Short of It
Sarah and Aaron Parkyn thought the vaccines their 4-year-old daughter Jazmyn had received included meningitis. So when they found out she had it, they were shocked.
When Jazmyn spiked a fever during the night, her parents figured she was coming down with the flu. It had been going around the family, after all. But then the little girl woke the next day feeling groggy and lethargic, and when Sarah tried to comfort her, she screamed out in pain from the slightest touch.
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"She couldn't stand anything touching her legs. She just kept screaming," Sarah told the Daily Mail. "I noticed a couple of marks on her legs, but it just looked like a heat rash."
But it wasn't. It was meningococcal B. The diagnosis came as a shock to Sara and Aaron because they thought their daughter had been immunized against it. Turns out, she wasn't because in the family's hometown of Renmark, South Australia, the vaccine is only available privately.
Poor Jazmyn had to stay in the hospital for a month, undergoing 15 different skin grafts to help replace the dead tissue on her legs. According to the community Facebook page, Jazmyn's meningococcal B journey, she still has pain in her feet and legs 10 months after her hospitalization. Now Sarah and Aaron want to share her scary story because they say doctors never mentioned the option of paying for additional vaccines.
"All those times we'd been to the doctors to discuss immunizations, and nobody ever mentioned it," Sarah said. "This disease can cost people their lives or limbs or cause major scarring. Shouldn't that be enough of a reason to put it on the national immunization program? She was completely up to date with her immunizations, but we had no idea that this didn't include being covered against the B strain. We just want to make sure nobody else goes through what we have."
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Here in the U.S., a quadvaccine that protects against four strains of meningococcal disease—A, C, W-135 and Y—is fully recommended for kids ages 11 to 12. But kids are still vulnerable to meningococcal B if they haven't also received the serogroup B vaccine, called MemB.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified its recommendations for MemB last year when it was approved by the FDA. The CDC classified the vaccine as "permissive," which means it is not mandatory, but recommended young people between the ages of 16 and 23 talk to their doctor about whether the shot is a good idea for them. Prior to the new guidelines, only people at high risk of getting the strain were encouraged to get the vaccine.