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Soleil Moon Frye, star of the iconic 1980s sitcom “Punky Brewster” and its recent revival, urges parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 and speak with their doctor about any questions they may have. After Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Spotify
  • Actor Soleil Moon Frye shares her story of how 3 of her 4 children developed COVID-19 despite her best efforts to keep them safe.
  • She hopes her story will inspire other parents to consider getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • She’s also joined the awareness campaign “Ask2BSure,” which aims to empower parents to ask their family doctors about vaccinations for meningitis B, a rare form of bacterial meningitis.

Earlier this summer, actor and director Soleil Moon Frye received news no parent wants to hear right now – three of her four children tested positive for COVID-19.

She said it was a confusing, disorienting, frightening revelation considering that she and her family had been doing their best to adhere to recommended preventive health measures throughout the pandemic.

She decided to take to Instagram, opening up about her family’s experience with the coronavirus, urging parents and families to do everything they can to keep themselves and those around them safe during this global health crisis.

“I have felt so many emotions these past days. I want to protect my babies, love them, make them all better, take away the burning fever and tummy aches. I have tried to smile through the fear and nurture them. I have shed many tears. It has brought up a lot for me,” Frye, the star of the iconic 1980s family sitcom “Punky Brewster” and its recent streaming revival, wrote in her Instagram post.

“More than anything it has brought up how thankful I am for our health and well being. I know how incredibly fortunate we are. My kids have been able to heal together and support each other through this, we have a doctor we trust and hospitals close by.”

Frye considers herself an informed parent and aware of the risks we’re all are facing right now. But she said that in these disorienting times, it’s not hard to be blindsided by COVID-19.

“I felt like I had quite a bit of information, and yet three out of four of my kids got COVID, and we weren’t able to trace it. So I think that goes to show so often we don’t think something can happen to us until it affects our lives,” Frye told Healthline. “I think it’s important we have these conversations, we have these dialogues and ask those questions.”

Frye said her shock when she learned of her children’s diagnoses is mirrored by many people right now. As we enter back-to-school season, families nationwide are understandably on edge as cases of COVID-19 and its emerging variants are on the rise.

“I totally get it [that confusion], it’s really, it’s surreal times that we are living in and ‘so real times,’ you know what I mean?” she said.

This stress of everything feeling a bit too much for parents and families right now is something she believes can be alleviated once you feel equipped with the information to ask the right questions of your healthcare professionals.

Frye has been reflecting a lot lately on the need to make health and well-being a central focus. At the time she’s been confronting her recent family health scare, she’s also been the celebrity face of a new awareness campaign, “Ask2BSure,” which aims to empower parents to ask their family doctors about vaccinations for meningitis B, a rare form of bacterial meningitis.

When asked why it was important to be part of a campaign on giving parents the tools to know about life saving preventive vaccines, Frye said it all goes back to her kids, including her oldest daughter, who recently turned 16.

“I actually did not know about meningitis B, if I’m being really honest,” she said. “I realized if I hadn’t known about it, I realized there are other families that are not aware of it.”

Frye’s said that after a conversation with her daughter’s pediatrician, she decided to get her daughter vaccinated.

Frye added, “I would say the last year with the pandemic, I would spend a lot of time trying to inform myself more, educate myself more, and I would say it’s been quite a learning experience.”

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround your spinal cord and brain.

There are two kinds of vaccinations for the forms of meningitis that can be prevented by vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine for all children 11 to 18 years old. Generally, 11- or 12-year-olds are recommended a dose of the vaccine, with a booster at age 16. This refers to the A, C, W, and Y strains of meningitis.

People 16 through 23 years old can also receive a serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine for meningitis B, which has been around only since 2014. The preferred age to be administered this vaccination is 16 to 18 years old, the CDC states.

Dr. Frank Esper, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, told Healthline that there is a wide range of recommended vaccinations that should be on parents’ radars for their children.

He said vaccine-preventable diseases are a leading cause of death around the world. Also, in the United States, where vaccines are widely available, it’s important that people — especially children, get the vaccinations they need as they head back to schools, colleges, and workplaces nationwide.

Esper, who is not affiliated with Frye’s campaign, said one of the key talking points of vaccine-hesitant critics is that there are “too many shots” people are asked to get. This isn’t really the case.

“A lot of times when you get a vaccine for the first time, you are getting several different protections. For instance, when you get the measles shot, you get protections against the measles, yes, but also mumps and rubella,” he explained.

“There are a lot of things we can prevent from most severe things like meningitis to conditions that are so pervasive we have to keep them under control, things like chicken pox,” he added.

Public concerns regarding vaccine safety are prevalent. However, from tetanus shots to the new COVID-19 vaccines, vaccines are rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. Only after extensive review are they officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For questions about what vaccinations to get for yourself or your children and loved ones, Esper recommends the CDC website and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Frye, a beloved public figure from the childhoods of many parents raising children today and a mom, said she is excited to use her platform to advocate for vaccines.

She said she wants to demystify asking your doctor questions about the appropriate course of action to take when vaccinating your child against a condition like meningitis B.

“It’s really about sharing information, empowering families so that we can have a dialogue, we can ask the doctor, can ask the health provider about [vaccinations],” she said. “It’s about encouraging us to have this ongoing dialogue.”

Esper is adamant that anyone 12 years or older who can get a COVID-19 vaccine does so.

He stressed that the COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and have been given to over 170 million people.

“[Those who are vaccine hesitant] say, ‘You haven’t tested the safety.’ Well, you know, our hospitals are not filling up with people with vaccine-related problems, they are filling up with people who haven’t been vaccinated and contracted the virus,” he said.

Esper said there are side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines as there are with any vaccination program or medicine. He said if you gave penicillin to 170 million people, you would undoubtedly witness people experiencing allergic reactions to the drug.

“That’s not to say it’s a bad drug, it just means there are side effects to every kind of medicine,” he said. “Tylenol would be the same thing.”

Beyond being part of the new meningitis B vaccine awareness campaign, Frye has worked with those on the COVID-19 frontlines. She’s a board member of CORE Response, the disaster relief and crisis response organization co-founded by fellow actor and longtime friend Sean Penn. The nonprofit’s central mission is to give aid to underserved communities worldwide.

Since the pandemic began, CORE has been administering COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites in communities hit hard by the pandemic.

“I would say that, next to my children, it is certainly the work that I’m most proud of being a part of. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to work with CORE. When disaster strikes, our team jumps in,” she said.

Frye said once COVID-19 hit, CORE mobilized.

“The next we knew we had our doctors at a stadium site with 800 team members a day,” she said. “I remembered the first day getting there and seeing this lineup of hundreds upon hundreds of cars waiting in line, and you realize when a collective group of people come together what we can do as individuals and as a team. Each one of us can make such a difference.”

Today, Frye said her children are doing fine after the initial fear of those positive diagnoses.

She explained how important it was for her to go public with her story because she wanted people to know how much COVID-19 can impact anyone.

“I thought my son had a cold, I thought it was just a cold or a fever, you know? I didn’t realize that it was COVID,” she added.

She said that opening clear lines of communication between parent and doctor, between parent and child, child and doctor, and back again is important. If we can’t communicate our concerns and questions clearly, our health and well-being won’t be properly looked after.

“I think it’s important for us to remove the stigma around so many things to be able to have open dialogues around vaccinations, to have open dialogues around mental health, to be able to have open dialogues around so many issues that we are confronted with and to know we are not alone in these things,” Frye said.

“You and I might have differences of opinion, but that is what true democracy is: Being able to have these conversations openly, and I think that is incredibly important.”

She concluded that parents have to trust their instincts.

“As parents [it’s important], to know that it is our right to ask our doctors and our healthcare providers these questions,” she said. “You know there are things within us, in our instinctual nature sometimes as a parent, you just know something, and you go with it, and it’s OK to ask questions and not be afraid.”