This past Sunday morning, I woke up early and travelled to Farmington Hills, Michigan to join a group of parents, students, and their families to receive a vaccine for the deadly Meningitis B (MenB) bacteria. I was joining the Emily Stillman Foundation on one of their "bus trips' across the Canadian border to receive the vaccine, because it's not available in the United States. Despite being legal in 34 countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dragged its feet on approving the vaccine in the U.S. In the last four months, the foundation has taken over 200 people to get receive the vaccine in Canada.
Alicia Stillman is doing tremendous work bringing people to Canada so that they can protect themselves against MenB. Alicia lived every parent's worst nightmare when her daughter, Emily, tragically passed away after contracting the deadly bacteria. Emily was a student at Western Michigan University with her entire life ahead of her when she was taken way too soon. And last year, fourteen other college students at Princeton, University of California, Santa Barbera and Drexel also contracted MenB that resulted in more deaths and complications that could have been prevented.
You may have read my recent Star Tribune article about the dangers of MenB and the need to swiftly approve the vaccine in the U.S. The FDA has allowed incoming students at Princeton University to receive the vaccination, but still have not acted swiftly enough to ensure all other Americans can receive this important protection.
Once we left Farmington Hills, we headed to the Windsor Tunnel border crossing into Windsor, Ontario. Joining me on the trip were 37 other parents, students and families who wanted to protect themselves from MenB. College students are most at risk of contracting the Meningitis B bacteria and many of those on the trip were hoping to get vaccinated with the beginning of the school year just around the corner. The dedication that Alicia has to make sure that no other parent loses a child from a preventable disease is nothing short of inspirational.
After a ten minute drive into Canada, we arrived at the medical clinic to receive our shots. Since the vaccination is a two-part process, we received the second dosage to bring back with us to the United States. It feels good knowing that I am protected from a scary bacteria like MenB, but more importantly, Americans shouldn't have to travel to foreign countries to protect themselves from preventable diseases.
The loss of Emily should not be in vain. We have the scientific advances to make sure that no other parent goes through this loss and bureaucratic red tape shouldn't keep us from reaching that goal. I'm committed to doing what I can in Congress and work with the FDA to expedite the approval of this vaccine so all Americans can be protected against the dangers of MenB.