Tiffani Thiessen, an actress best known for her roles on Beverly Hills 90210 and Saved by the Bell, is serving as a spokesperson for National Meningitis Association’s new vaccine effort. 

It’s About Time: Help Stock the Clock on Meningitis, is a campaign that has a personal connection to Thiessen, who has a daughter that is 11-years-old, the age when children should receive the first dose of the two-dose MenACWY vaccine. 

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare and deadly disease capable of killing even a healthy teenager, who are especially prone to it, in 24 hours. In 2019, the latest year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has data available, there were a total of 371 cases in the United States. 

Survivors often face long recoveries as well but the disease can be prevented with the MenACWY vaccine, a two-dose regimen given at ages 11 or 12 and then again at age 16. However, the vaccine currently suffers a dramatic drop-off between the first and second doses, with around 90% of children receiving the first dose but only around 55% receiving the second one.

Tiffani Thiessen with her daughter Harper.

To support awareness of the vaccine, Sanofi paired up with Thiessen and the National Meningitis Association on its It’s About Time to share the message.

“The most impactful way to reach these parents of adolescents is two-fold. One is through a campaign ambassador like Tiffani Thiessen who is really relatable to other parents her age and the other is through an educational partner like the National Meningitis Association,” said Lisa Schafer, vice president & head of mainline portfolio vaccines at Sanofi. “It helps us deliver messages that are meaningful from those two different perspectives.” 

Schafer explained that some of the causes behind the inoculation drop-off is related to health policy mandates. 

“For the first dose there are mandates in 31 states and D.C.,” she said. “The second dose has only 17 mandates. Also, at ages 11 or 12, there are other vaccines due and school forms to be completed. That’s not typically true at age 16. Finally, the pandemic has caused a decrease in all vaccination rates across the board.”

One of the campaign website’s tools to counteract impediments to higher vaccination rates is an email reminder so that parents, and their teens, are more likely to follow up on getting that second dose. 

“We have had it before, and it is one of the most-used tools,” said Kim Wilson, Director, Menquadfi Marketing Lead at Sanofi. “A new cool and exciting feature is that if parents opt in for their reminder, they will be eligible for a chance to have a virtual meet-and-greet with Tiffani.”

Thiessen will film 15 to 20 short conversations, which will be released beginning in July and then over the upcoming months. She will sit down with healthcare professionals and others to discuss the vaccine, its importance and address concerns. 

While a meet-and-greet with a Hollywood star may sweeten the pot, the principal message of the campaign, whether conveyed by Thiessen or in the testimonials from survivors and parents, is that the vaccine offers essential protection against a deadly disease.

“Meningococcal meningitis is contagious, and spreads easily, through something as simple as sharing a water bottle,” Wilson said. “Millions of adolescents are not protected against a scary, deadly disease. We want to create a sense of urgency, that’s part of the reason for the name of the campaign: Help Stop the Clock.”