Monday, August 25

meningitis fearmongering

A relatively heavy ad campaign has recently been launched to promote Menactra, a meningitis vaccine. The ads show bright-eyed, smiling pre-teens and tells us what they want to be when they grow up. (See their web ad here.)

Aeesha wants to be a pop-star. Chad wants to be a ocenographer. Kiera wants to be cartoon animator. Micheal wants to be a hedge fund manager (if you can believe a 12 years old knows what a hedge fund is).

But the ads then warn us that their hopes, dreams, and lives can be ended by meningitis whose symptoms could be as benign as a cough or sneeze but can prove fatal is less than 2 days if untreated. But, we are then reassured that Menectra can protect our kids and help ensure they grow up to achieve their dreams. And to add credence to this claim, the CDC recommends Menactra vaccinations for all kids.

Everything the ads state is true. But I positively hate ads like this that prey on fear.

Menactra (aka MCV4) is a new meningitis vaccine that received approval in 2005. But it's precursor, MPSV4 , has been available since 1981. The CDC does recommend MCV4 as part of the normal pre-adolescent vaccinations, but only because it is the latest meningitis vaccine and has been shown to reduce the risk of communicable transfer. The CDC further states that MPSV4 is highly effective. It even states that a MCV4 vaccination is not needed if MPSV4 has already been administered and further focuses the recommenation on at-risk groups that are in-close quarters (students entering dorms, military personnel, etc.).

Meningitis vaccinations are not required in any state. Although there have been a few well-publicized meningitis deaths in the past couple of years, the CDC did not make this recommendation because of a sudden outbreak in meningitis cases. The CDC estimates an meningitis incident (not death) may occur 1 out of 100,000 students each year.

Vaccinating your child against meningitis is a good precaution. But the Menactra campaign tries to spin a safety measure as a vital defense against a pressing enemy. That's misleading and a distasteful marketing tactic.

Further reading: Keep Kids Healthy meningitis page; CDC meningitis FAQs.


Vamsi said...

Nice post Tony. When I watched this ad few hours back I too commented the same to my friends. What a coincidence.

A R Collins said...

i'm not alone: Steve T's Rants: PharmCo's. Fear Mongering since 2001

Steve T. said...

I followed you from your comment on my blog to your blog here and I think we have a movement going on! Good stuff!