Sanofi backs 'The 16 vaccine' campaign to bolster meningitis booster awareness

Most 16-year-olds are learning to drive, getting jobs and thinking about college and the future, but most likely are not thinking about vaccinations. Sanofi Pasteur and the National Meningitis Association want to change that with a new awareness campaign about the meningococcal meningitis vaccine booster.

NMA, sponsored by Sanofi, last week launched “The 16 Vaccine” campaign online and on social media to encourage teens, parents and doctors to think about the quadrivalent booster vaccine recommended by the CDC at age 16. The NMA partnership follows Sanofi’s own recent TV marketing push about the booster, reminding parents and teens that meningitis protection requires “one more dose.”

RELATED: Sanofi seeks the next Teenage Idol in meningitis vaccine campaign

While 30 states have childhood immunization mandates for protection against meningococcal meningitis, only a dozen or so have requirements for the followup booster, although some colleges do mandate the quadrivalent booster, which covers the A, C, W and Y strains, as part of their admissions process. No states require meningitis B vaccines, although some colleges are beginning to add it to their health checkup list.

The 16 Vaccine campaign centers on meningitis survivors and the loved ones of teens who didn’t survive. In videos, they tell their heart-wrenching stories, speaking into a microphone in front of an empty auditorium with the end advisory on screen: “This message needs to be heard. These stories need an audience.” The NMA also plans to hold regional and national public relations events with some of the advocates, along with pediatricians who have experience with meningitis.

Leslie Maier, the incoming president of the NMA, lost her 17-year-old son Christopher to meningococcal disease in 2005 when he was a senior in high school, which was around the same time that Sanofi came to market with the first quadrivalent vaccine. She began to work with NMA in her home state of Arizona and helped to convince the Arizona legislature to become the first state to mandate the MenACWY vaccine for 11-to-12-year-olds in 2008. She’s now working to get the booster mandated by the state as well. While 85% of children receive the first quadrivalent meningitis vaccine, fewer than 50% get the follow up at 16, she said.

RELATED: Sanofi's meningococcal vax rivalry with Novartis ends in $61.5M class-action settlement

“That’s what this campaign with Sanofi is about. We need to get the word out that ‘hey, your kids are protected with the adolescent visit, but you need the 16-year-old booster,’” she said, noting that her son would have needed that second shot to have been fully protected.

Sanofi Pasteur makes Menactra, one of two meningococcal disease vaccines for types A, C, W and Y. GlaxoSmithKline makes the other, Menveo. Vaccines for the fifth strain of the disease, meningitis B, are Bexsero from GSK and Trumenba from Pfizer.