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Actress and singer Tiffany Thornton, star of the Disney Channel’s So Random, nearly lost her life to meningococcal disease as a teen, and is sharing her personal battle with the disease through the Voices of Meningitis initiative urging parents to vaccinate their preteen and teenage children.

As the new spokesperson, Thornton joins school nurses, parents, other survivors of the disease and health experts nationwide as part of Voices of Meningitis – a national awareness initiative of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, that aims to increase awareness of this potentially deadly disease and urge parents to seek vaccination for preteens and teens.

“One day I was fine, the next day I was in the hospital fighting for my life – it happened so fast,” said Thornton. “If my parents and I had known that teens are at greater risk for meningitis, I would’ve been vaccinated. Now I’m adding my ‘voice’ to this campaign to urge parents to talk to their child’s school nurse or health-care provider about vaccination, to help them avoid what my parents and I went through.”

Preteens and teens are at greater risk for meningococcal disease – a rare, but serious bacterial infection that can cause meningitis and take the life of an otherwise healthy child in just a single day. Vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for preteens and teens, yet nearly half of U.S. adolescents 11 to 17 years of age have not been immunized, leaving many unprotected against the disease.

School nurses across the country are leading the charge to educate parents about the need for vaccination. “We believe the power of voice and sharing of stories will provide families with the information needed to make informed decisions about meningococcal vaccination,” said Sandi Delack, RN, MEd, NCSN, a school nurse for more than 20 years and the president of the NASN. “The role of the school nurse is to ensure the health and well-being of the students in their care. Promoting this important health message is a critical step toward fulfilling that responsibility.”

 

Tiffany Thornton has been there for Demi Lovato lately. Soon, Lovato will get to repay the favor.

“Demi is one of my bridesmaids!” Thornton, 25, who got engaged this winter, tells PEOPLE of her costar on Disney Channel’s Sonny with a Chance. “We go way back. She’s like a little sister to me. She’s one of my closest friends.”

Thornton has been supporting Lovato, 18, during her treatment for eating disorders and bipolar disorder in recent months. That means texts, tweets and good old-fashioned girl time.

“We love Pinkberry!” Thornton said at Tuesday’s Voices of Meningitis luncheon in New York. “We hang out a lot, we talk about our faith. I just really enjoy spending time with her.”

The two have been pals since they started filming Sonny with a Chance in 2009. Thornton’s sisterly concern for Lovato is clear. “You could tell she was always tired,” she said. “She works more than any person I have ever known in my entire life.”

Lovato recently said she won’t return to Sonny with a Chance, so she can focus on her music career. In that, she has the full support of her Disney Channel friends.

“I’ll miss Demi,” says Thornton. “I’m really proud of her. It takes a lot of guts to admit that you aren’t perfect in front of the world.”

Last night Demi Lovato went out with a couple friends which included Tiffany Thornton, Leven Rambin, Francia Raisa as well as one more girl to BOA.

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Tiffany Thornton Debby Ryan Creative Arts

Tiffany Thornton, Debby Ryan, Ryan Ochia, Sammi Hanratty attended Creative Arts Fair and Family day supporting P.S. ARTS ‘Express Yourself 2010’ mission to improve children’s lives through arts education held at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California on November 7. Photos: Fame.

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