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Teens Need Caccinations to Protect Against Life-Threatening Diseases

Posted September 13, 2012 in Web Exclusives

It is recommended that teenagers receive three important vaccinations that protect them from meningococcal meningitis, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, and cervical cancer. The National Immunization Survey on teen vaccination rates reports the rate at which teens are getting these recommended vaccinations. The three vaccinations that prevent these diseases are the Tdap, the MCV4 and the HPV vaccines. These vaccinations are recommended because the disease they prevent can cause debilitating permanent damage and can sometimes lead to death. Pre-teens and teenagers are at increased risk of these diseases. While the overall numbers provided by this survey show that more young people are getting vaccinated, there are still 30-50% who aren’t getting vaccinated for some diseases.

Meningococcal Meningitis

This disease is a bacteria that is spread from person to person by close personal contact and can be devastating. Although infants less than 1 year of age are at the highest risk of getting this disease, adolescents and teens are most likely to die from it. Each year in the U.S. 800-1500 people are infected with meningococcus and 120 die from it. However, one in five survivors live the rest of their lives with permanent disabilities, such as seizures, loss of limbs, kidney disease, deafness and mental retardation. Symptoms of the disease can include fever, chills, rash, low blood pressure and dark purple spots on the arms and legs. Meningitis can progress very rapid and sometime even early medical attention is not enough. The MCV4 vaccination protects against four of the five types of meningococcus and is recommended for all 11 and 12 year olds and a booster dose at age 16. Vaccination rates for this disease are good and rose nearly eight percentage points to 71 percent in 2011.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis

The Tdap vaccination protects people from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough. Tetanus is a bacteria found in the soil that can cause painful muscle spasms while diphtheria is very contagious and spread by coughing and sneezing and can invade the heart, kidneys and nervous system. Pertuss is also known as whooping cough and primarily causes damage to the lungs and painful spasms of coughing that can be so severe that people crack their ribs. Pertussis is highly contagious and while the disease is usually mild in teens and adults, they can pass it to infants who are at higher risk of dying from the disease. The Tdap vaccination will protect teens from these three diseases as well as protect babies that they may come in contact with. Tdap vaccination rates have also increased, by 9 percentage points reaching above 78 percent.

Human Papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and around the world. This virus can lead to genital warts and various forms of cancer, including those of the cervix and other reproductive organs as well as cancers of the head and neck. In fact, each year, 300,000 women worldwide die from cervical cancer caused by HPV. More than half of sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some time in their lives and while most of the time HPV goes away on its own and doesn’t cause any health problems, sometimes it can stay in your body and cause cancer. HPV can be prevented with a vaccination. In other words, CANCER can be prevented with a vaccination. Studies in thousands of girls and young women found the vaccines that protect against HPV to be safe and effective. The vaccination can be given to those as young as nine years of age and is also recommended for all teenagers and adults between 13 and 26 years of age. The vaccination was originally intended for females but studies have shown that the vaccination is also safe and effective in preventing genital warts and cancer caused by HPV in boys. Vaccinating males for HPV also helps stop the transmission of HPV to other sexual partners. The vaccine is given in three doses and the rates for this vaccination are not as encouraging with only half of U.S. girls getting the vaccine. And of those half that are getting vaccinated nearly one in four girls and two or three boys did not receive all of the shots, which will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine and not provide protection against HPV and the cancers it can cause. Rates are also lower for younger girls. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls who are 11 or 12 years of age, before they become sexually active and exposed to the HPV virus.

These vaccinations can be life-saving and for the first time in the history of medicine, a type of cancer can be prevented with a vaccine. All of the recommended childhood, adult and booster vaccination have gone through rigorous scientific study and have been found safe and effective. The most common side effects of vaccination is redness and tenderness at the injection site and a slight fever. The severity of these diseases is a far greater risk than a reaction to a vaccination.

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