NEW YORK -- In the world of disease prevention, adolescents have traditionally gotten short shrift from the medical community. For years, adolescents have had little in the way of vaccine protection, but the year 2005 brought with it new vaccines for this age group, with many more pushing their way down the research pipeline. Pertussis boosters and a conjugate meningococcal vaccine are the new vaccines added to the CDC immunization schedule for adolescents, which currently includes:
* Standard tetanus-diphtheria booster
* Hepatitis B series and the varicella vaccine for those who missed out as younger children
* Second MMR shot if not already given
* Influenza, hepatitis A and pneumococcal vaccines for some adolescents
Despite the new developments, the importance of vaccine protection is at times underestimated by both adolescents and their parents. Thirty-five million adolescents in America are not fully vaccinated. "Such a large pool of unprotected individuals can have multiple negative consequences, including disease outbreaks among this large group and the unfortunate ability to act as a reservoir of disease for those who can't be immunized or those for whom immunizations are not as effective," said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.
"The meningococcal disease immunization recommendations introduced in 2005, along with future developments in vaccines for adolescents, will literally help save the lives of young people across the country," said Lynn Bozof, executive director of the National Meningitis Association, who lost her son Evan in 1998 to meningococcal disease while he was a junior in college.
"Many people think that shots are only for babies," explained Parnell. "But in reality, there are millions of people between the ages of 11-19 who are at risk of getting serious diseases like tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, chickenpox, and others. It's important to remember that the community-at-large also benefits when children and teens are fully immunized."
Adolescents and their families are often times confused and unaware of the immunization recommendations for teenagers. PKIDs launched their Teen Vaccine Initiative in 2005. This program encourages American adolescents and their parents to ensure this youthful group has had all of its recommended vaccinations.
"Adolescents need help with learning how to protect their health. What they learn now -- the safe health habits they adopt -- will provide a lifetime of protection against disease," said Parnell.
PKIDs is a national nonprofit organization that supports families touched by chronic, viral infectious diseases including viral hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, and educates the public about effective disease prevention. Created in 1996 by parents seeking ways to help their children face the physical, emotional and social challenges of these diseases, PKIDs also provides information about the latest medical treatments, civil rights protections and pertinent information on family issues through its volunteers, publications, listservs, staff and Web site (http://www.pkids.org).