Time To Vaccinate Your Preteen

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed January 18-24, 2009 Preteen Vaccine Week. This annual statewide awareness campaign is designed to highlight the benefits of immunizations and regular visits to a doctor for children between 11 and 12 years of age. There are more than 313,000 preteens between the ages of 11 and 12 living in Los Angeles County.

High vaccine rates for infants and older children have virtually eliminated many vaccine-preventable diseases that once caused serious illness and even death for our youth, said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health. We encourage parents to help their preteens start the year off on a healthy course by scheduling a wellness visit with their child’s doctor. Parents can discuss immunizations with the doctor, and gain tools to help encourage healthy habits such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising every day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that 11- and 12-year-olds receive:

Meningococcal vaccine (MCV4): to protect against certain serious types of bacterial meningitis and other related infections,

Tdap booster: to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: to protect girls against cervical cancer,

A second chickenpox vaccine (unless they have received 2 doses as a child or have had chickenpox),

An annual flu vaccine.

Many preteens are not up-to-date on recommended immunizations, leaving them vulnerable to serious illnesses that could otherwise be prevented. Meningococcal infection, which can rapidly progress to a severe blood infection or meningitis, is fatal in about 10% of infected teens and causes long-term disability for another 15%.

Preteens may also spread vaccine-preventable diseases such as meningitis or whooping cough to those who are at greatest risk for severe complications. In 2007, only 32.4% of teens 13 through 17 years of age in the U.S. had received the MCV4 vaccine to prevent meningococcal infection, and only 30.4% of those in the same age group had received the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough.

Several events will be held throughout the County with partners such as the Immunization Coalition of Los Angeles County (ICLAC) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Nursing Division. Events in celebration of Preteen Vaccine Week include:

January 21 at 4:00 p.m.: An interactive preteen immunization educational session for preteens and parents will be held at the Norwood Library in El Monte. Sponsored by LA County Public Health in partnership with the Norwood Library. Contact Ana Garcia, Children’s Librarian at the Norwood Library, at (626) 443-3148 or agarcia@library.lacounty.gov

January 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: A panel titled Innovative Strategies to Increase Adolescent Immunization Rates will be held at the California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities. Hosted by ICLAC. Contact Wendy Berger at wberger@ph.lacounty.gov or 213-351-7800 to register.

January 28 and 29: Onsite vaccination clinics will be held for students at John Muir Middle School to provide free recommended vaccines to preteens. This event is hosted by LAUSD and ICLAC.