GSK's latest meningitis B campaign taps first spokescelebrity: 'Punky Brewster,' now mom of 4

Back to school often means meningitis awareness campaigns, but this year GlaxoSmithKline is drawing a distinction between the more common MenACWY vaccine for adolescents and the separate MenB shot for older teens in the U.S.

Lending a voice to GSK's “Ask2BSure” campaign is former child actor Soleil Moon Frye, who starred in the popular '80s show “Punky Brewster.” Now a mother of four, the actress and producer is a “relatable mom and recognizable face,” Stephanie Jen, vice president of U.S. vaccine marketing at GSK, said in an email interview.

Frye’s oldest daughter just turned 16, a key age in meningitis B vaccine scheduling. The preferred age range for dosing is 16-18 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As Frye says on the campaign website, "I always ask a lot of questions and do my research, so I was surprised when I only recently learned about meningitis B."

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The effort is "launching at a critical time for vaccination—a large portion of teens and young adults are missing important routine vaccinations due to the pandemic," Jen said, though as she noted, missing MenB vaccinations was a problem before the pandemic.

The digital "Ask2BSure" campaign houses education and resources on a website and will drive traffic to the site though social media, including posts from Frye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Along with Frye, longtime GSK spokesperson, meningitis survivor and Paralympic athlete Jamie Schanbaum is also involved, again sharing her story on the site.

GSK will donate $1 for every view of Schanbaum’s video story, up to $10,000, through the end of November. A slate of other social efforts are also planned with nonprofit groups, mom bloggers and social media influencers, Jen said.

GSK’s target audience is parents of teens and young adults ages 16-23.

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“Not all doctors may mention the two different types of vaccines needed to help protect against the five most common serogroups that cause meningitis (one for groups A, C, W, and Y and another for group B), and not all parents know to ask for them,” Jen said, adding, “even if their children received a meningitis vaccination when they were younger, they may be missing vaccination for meningitis B."

While the effort is unbranded, GSK markets Bexsero, one of the two meningitis B vaccines on the market. The other is Pfizer’s Trumenba.