Emily Stillman Foundation hosts meningitis B vaccination clinic

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published March 25, 2015

 Since the death of 19-year-old Emily Stillman in February 2013, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines for people 10-25 years of age.

Since the death of 19-year-old Emily Stillman in February 2013, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines for people 10-25 years of age.

Photo provided by the Emily Stillman Foundation


WEST BLOOMFIELD/FARMINGTON HILLS — Since the death of 19-year-old Emily Stillman, a foundation  named for her has been raising funds for both meningococcal disease and organ donation, as well as spreading awareness.

The Emily Stillman Foundation — started by Alicia and Michael Stillman — has taken busloads of people into Canada to be vaccinated for serogroup B meningococcal disease as part of its awareness campaign.

Prior to October 2014, the Food and Drug Administration had not approved vaccines for the serogroup B meningococcal disease that killed Emily in February 2013. But on Oct. 29, the FDA approved the first serogroup B meningococcal vaccine — Trumenba — for use in people ages 10-25 as a three-dose series. The FDA then approved a second serogroup B meningococcal vaccine — Bexsero — again for people 10-25 years of age, but as a two-dose series.

But despite the vaccine approvals, Alicia Stillman said a number of clinics and hospitals have yet to start using the vaccines, which is why the Emily Stillman Foundation is sponsoring a clinic to administer the Bexsero vaccine beginning at 10 a.m. March 28.

The clinic will be held at 30057 Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills.

A physician and nurses will administer the Bexsero vaccine. Alicia Stillman said the vaccine is available “off label” for people younger or older than the FDA-approved age limits; however, those interested should consult with their physician before receiving the vaccine. The vaccine is approved in other countries on a broader basis, she added.

Coverage of serogroup B meningococcal disease requires two doses of the Bexsero vaccine at least 30 days apart, and not more than six months apart.  The foundation will hold additional clinics in the future. The vaccine does not replace the MV4 vaccine, which covers meningococcal strains A, C, Y and W. This vaccine protects only against the B strain.

A suggested donation for the two dosages is $300, but financial assistance is available upon request. Advanced registration is required and can be done by emailing Alicia Stillman at emilystillmanfoundation@gmail.com.

“I will not turn anybody away. I will protect whoever wants to be protected with whatever donation can be given,” Alicia Stillman said. “I feel it is my duty to protect whoever wants the protection.”

Meningococcal disease caused by bacteria can infect the bloodstream and the lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Bacteria is transmitted from person to person by air droplets — by coughing, kissing or sharing eating utensils. In 2012, about 500 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the U.S., and of those cases, 160 were caused by serogroup B, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The approval of these vaccines represents a major public health accomplishment toward preventing this life-threatening disease,” FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Dr. Karen Midthun said in a press release.

According to the FDA, while antibiotics can be used to treat meningococcal disease, the outcomes are not always predictable. And those who have contracted the meningococcal disease are at risk of death or long-term consequences.

Dr. Matthew Sims, a board- certified infectious disease specialist and director of infectious diseases research at William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, said meningococcal disease is dangerous.

“(Vaccines are) really the only way to prevent it,” Sims said. “Vaccines have been probably one of the biggest boons to prevent disease. … Vaccination is a very important thing.”

A vaccine was created against meningitis bacteria, but it wasn’t a complete vaccine, Sims said. The vaccine did not cover serogroup B.

“And because of that, we would see — every now and then — outbreaks in colleges of meningitis B,” Sims said, adding that those in crowded areas, like army barracks and college dorms, are at risk of outbreaks because the bacteria can spread from person to person.

Sims said the serogroup B vaccine is a “better” vaccine because it covers a strain that the original vaccine was missing.

Before receiving the vaccine, Sims said, people should speak to their physicians to ensure they can receive it. Even those with immune problems can receive the vaccine because it is not a live vaccine, he said. However, speaking with a physician is the first step.

“I applaud the foundation for encouraging the vaccination,” Sims said.

Alicia Stillman said the foundation will offer the clinics until medical offices and clinics in the area “understand the importance of this protection and are willing to administer and support it in their offices.”

“I only wish I had this ability to do this two years ago, and I could have done it in time to save my daughter,” she said.

To register to receive the Bexsero vaccine for meningococcal serogroup B, email emilystillmanfoundation@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.foreveremily.org.