Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back to School Vaccines: it's not too early!

I'm getting Amigo's paperwork ready for school in the fall. I'm dealing with my own health issues. And while medical care is all fresh in my mind, I find my mind wandering to my own students, those I will teach in the fall.

Last year the children in my class were hit hard by H1N1. During a three to four week period, I saw five to ten students out each day. Each one missed at least four days; the sickest of the group missed two full weeks of school.

Amigo is 18. La Petite is 23, a recent college graduate. In the five years between them, immunizations changed. It's very important to keep up on the changes; teens need regular physicals, just like babies and toddlers do.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is asking bloggers to remind parents to immunize their teens and preteens. Did you know that while most infants and children get the vaccines they need, less then half of pre-teens and teens receive the vaccines specifically recommended for their age group?

There are serious diseases that kids are at increased risk for as they approach the teen years such as meningitis, whooping cough, and human papillomavirus (also known as HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women).

Meningococcal infections are very serious and can result in long-term disability or even death.
Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is not just a childhood diseasemany teens are diagnosed with it each year. Five years ago, one of my 6th grade students had it and generously shared the virus with me - in June.
Certain strains of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, can cause cervical pre-cancer and cancer.

There are three vaccines recommended specifically for kids at ages 11 or 12 to protect them from these diseases:

Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningitis and its complications
Tdap vaccine, which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
HPV vaccine, which protects girls and women against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer

In addition, pre-teens (and all kids 6 months and older!) should get the flu vaccine every year. Even healthy kids can get the flu and it can be serious. Just ask last year's fourth graders!

You might be thinking, "Oh, that's fine for people with health insurance. What about those who can't afford vaccines?" Many of my students and their families fall into that category. Lost job or low income doesn't have to prevent necessary health care. Look into the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program for funding sources.

I focus more and more on keeping my family healthy through holistic eating and natural methods. I will never give up their vaccines, though. Immunizations are too important to miss.

I am writing this post as part of a CDC blogger outreach program. I may receive a small thank you gift from the CDC for my participation in raising awareness about pre-teen immunizations.

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