MRF, COVID-19, and me

March 2020

As the outbreak of Coronavirus continues around the world, Meningitis Research Foundation's Chief Executive Vinny Smith reflects on what this means for our work.

I am writing from home. It’s a very strange office. There are my children in it for starters now - the whole family is in lockdown for two weeks given I’ve started with a cough. I am thanking my lucky stars for the glorious BBC classrooms. And my wife. Yes, oh goodness yes, thank goodness for my wife too. Sainthood will surely follow.

Like you, I’ve been in the COVID-19 wormhole in space this month. One week here and the next several light years away.

In the UK this meant London Marathon postponed, other public fundraising events on hold or cancelled, teams working from home, public statements, vital supporter communications, Board statements, bank statements... I am aware it is even worse in many other countries already, and we are followers.

And yet, 365 days a year, MRF is here to help people who have experienced meningitis hitting their lives like a whirlwind right out of the blue. Just 12 hours of their lives has often changed their outlook forever when meningitis strikes. As this situation unfolds, I find myself often thinking that they know only too well the unpredictability of life, and I have so much to learn.

Never in my working life have I ever, or could I ever, imagine that the national topic of debate would so readily cross over with my daily work: infectious disease spread; levels of contagiousness or not; at-risk groups; signs and symptoms; herd immunity; the importance of vaccines; genome sequencing; testing; the need for adequate training and fully supported health workers with the tools and resources they need; and essential to it all, good communication and calling for the right actions. In short, the importance of prevention, diagnosis and treatment, surveillance, support and aftercare and of good advocacy and communication.

Though this is all about COVID-19, these issues are also the main pillars of our strategy to defeat meningitis. When things settle down, they will also hopefully become the bedrock of the world’s first-ever World Health Assembly resolution on meningitis, seeking to defeat this disease by 2030.

For now we take care of each other, we support all efforts to minimise impact and disruption on daily lives, and we stand in support of the health workers who work incredibly hard to keep us as safe as possible. We also ask for any help, from anyone, anywhere, who can help support our fundraising to keep us functioning through this. This will mean that tomorrow we can keep answering calls from those who are worried and contacting us daily for good information; keep supporting people to get their vital meningitis vaccines even when the health system is at maximum stretch; and to ensure that, once this passes, we go on to defeat meningitis as surely as we must defeat COVID-19.

A global vision for meningitis by 2030 and an action plan to get there.

Detailed information about the after effects of meningitis

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About the author

Vinny Smith
Chief Executive

Besides meeting my wife and having two wonderful kids, leading MRF is the greatest privilege of my life.

Since joining in 2015 I’ve helped develop and launch a new brand identity, new website and a new strategy. We’ve held governments to account on vaccine policy and called for and achieved a new World Health Organisation global task force for meningitis to 2030.
Tel: 0333 405 6262