The Jessica Elkins Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, passed the Alabama Senate this week. It now goes to the House for final approval.
The legislation — Senate Bill 75 — reads that if a local board of education provides information on immunizations, infectious diseases, medications and other school health issues to parents and students in sixth through 12th grade, then certain information regarding meningococcal meningitis disease and its vaccine shall also be provided. The information would include a description of the causes, symptoms and means of transmission of the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination is recommended for all 11- and 12-year-olds. While anyone can contract the disease, teenagers and young adults have the highest risk.
“It is my hope and desire that this bill will save lives,” Irons said.
Irons credited Michelle Elkins, Jessica Elkins mother, and her determination to help bring awareness to the rare and sometimes fatal disease.
Since Jessica’s death on Dec. 26, 2007, Michelle has worked tirelessly so other families would not have to experience the same pain her family experienced. She joined the National Meningitis Association’s “Mom’s on Meningitis” program.
According to Sen. Irons, Michelle’s passion for turning a tragedy into something positive caught her attention.
“It is my goal to educate other families in Alabama on all aspects of meningococcal meningitis — from its causes, symptoms and means of transmission to the available vaccines and the importance of immunizations,” Michelle said.
On Dec. 21, 2007, Jessica Elkins, a junior varsity cheerleader and student at Athens High School, was looking forward to enjoying the Christmas holiday break with family and friends. She completed her final exams at school and joined her sister for lunch at a local restaurant. While at lunch, she started experiencing pain in her hips and legs and left the restaurant to wait in the car.
When she got home, the pain became worse and Jessica was taken to the doctor who diagnosed her with the flu and advised her to get some rest. That night the pain became worse.
Michelle noticed a quarter size bruise on Jessica’s hip and upon closer inspection she noticed purple spots all over her body. She took Jessica to another doctor who recognized the purple marks as a sign of meningococcal meningitis.
Jessica was immediately taken to the emergency room where the diagnosis was confirmed. She was subsequently airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
By Dec. 23, 2007, Jessica had developed pneumonia and on Christmas Eve, she was connected to a breathing machine. Christmas Day her kidneys began to fail and she died the following day.
Jessica was scheduled to have her vaccination for meningitis in March 2008.