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Summer is Immunization Season

for Teenagers & Young People

Immunizations provide important benefits to healthy teens and youngsters, including keeping them healthy, preventing problems as they grow older, and preventing the spread of illness to the elderly, children, and infants (all of whom have less ability to fight off illness than the average healthy teen).   Protection of young people translates into protection for all.

The “yearly checkup” with the doctor is a good time to discuss the importance and need for immunizations.  It’s an opportunity to “catch up” on infant immunizations that were missed, to get vaccines required for school attendance, or to complete or supplement immunization series that were begun earlier in life and not completed.  Getting vaccinations at the doctor’s office means that records are on file in a patient’s medical history and readily available if ever needed.  

New State Requirements Instituted Last Year

Another good reason to check immunization status: the State of Indiana began requiring three additional immunizations last year.  Before starting grades 6-12 in the fall, students must have received two doses of the Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine or present evidence of natural immunity from a case of chicken pox.  Students in grades 6-12 must also show proof of one dose of Tdap vaccine, and one dose of MCV4 Meningococcal vaccine, prior to the beginning of the school year.   Failure to comply with these immunization requirements could lead to delay in starting the school year.

•  Varicella Virus (Chickenpox) Vaccine.  This vaccine may be administered to children aged 12 months to 12 years as a series of two injections, given 3 months apart.    Teens age 13 years and up may receive two doses of the vaccine 4-8 weeks apart.    Chickenpox is usually felt to be a mild childhood illness, characterized by an itchy uncomfortable rash, fever, and fatigue.   However, it can lead to severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage, or even death.   A person who has had chicken pox can get a painful rash called shingles years after having the disease. 

•  Tdap Vaccine.  Young people in grades 6-12 will be required to show proof of one dose of  this vaccine (Brand Name Adacel) which will boost their Tetanus (lockjaw) immunity as well as give protection against Diphtheria  (a bacterial disease which causes a thick covering in the back of the throat, and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death) and Whooping Cough (pertussis), a bacterial disease spread by coughing and sneezing that mimics a common cold at the beginning, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, mild cough and fever.   After 1-2 weeks, severe coughing spells, vomiting and disturbed sleep may occur.   It can lead to weight loss, incontinence, rib fractures, passing out from violent coughing, and in some cases, pneumonia requiring hospitalization or a brain disorder called encephalopathy.   Whooping cough can be fatal, causing 10-20 deaths a year in the U.S. 

  

•  Meningococcal Vaccine.  Commonly called the MCV4 or Meningitis Vaccine (Brand Name Menactra), the State of Indiana began requiring this vaccine for students in grades 6-12 last year.   Meningococcal infection caused by the Neisseria meningitides bacteria poses a serious threat.   Studies have shown that meningococcal disease can spread quickly among persons in close contact, such as teens attending school or living in college dormitories.   Symptoms include a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, confusion, and rash.  Meningitis can cause death in a healthy teen in 48 hours or less, and meningitis survivors may have problems that last the remainder of their lives, including deafness, mental retardation, or loss of arms or legs.

Other Immunizations

In addition to the above, some young people may be due for HAV (Hepatitis A Vaccine) or HBV (Hepatitis B Vaccine) depending on their age and immunization history.     

HPV (Brand Name Gardasil) is a series of three immunizations indicated for female patients only, and protects against human papillomavirus infection, a viral sexually transmitted disease which is the leading cause of cervical cancer and genital warts in women.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine to all girls ages 11-12, but it may be administered to females age 9-26 who have not previously been vaccinated. 

Influenza Virus Vaccine, to prevent and minimize the spread of seasonal influenza, is recommended for pre-teens, teens and college students, during the period October-December.  Many young people think they are immune to influenza, or that even if they get the flu, it’s no big deal.   In fact, even healthy young people can contract a serious case of the flu, which can immobilize them for up to two weeks with high fever, chills, severe headache, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, and even inability to get out of bed to attend class, work or other activities.   Two weeks of missed class in a semester can have a devastating effect on that semester’s course work, jeopardizing not just grades, but future plans.

   

Call now to schedule an appointment

Summer is the time when many parents schedule their teens and youngsters for their yearly check-ups, for sports physicals required prior to participation in certain activities, or for pre-college physicals.   Parents are advised to accompany their teens and youngsters to these visits, and to discuss immunizations with their physicians.   The earlier you can schedule your teen’s checkup, the better, since some multi-dose vaccine series require a wait of 4-12 weeks between doses.

Additional information about pre-teen and adolescent immunizations is available on the Centers for Disease Control website: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/spec-grps/preteens-adol.htm www.cdc.gov/vaccines/spec-grps/preteens-adol.htm

 

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