Preteen vaccine campaign has a Native American spokesperson

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with the Indian Health Service to launch a campaign informing American Indian and Alaska Native parents about the importance of a preteen medical check-up and preteen vaccines, Indian Country Today reported Feb. 10.

Dr. Michael Bartholomew, the campaign’s spokesman, is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the chief of pediatrics at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Fort Defiance, Ariz. He is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service. He graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and completed his pediatric training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Children’s Hospital.

It’s a common misperception that vaccines are only for infants. Children also need protection from diseases as they enter their teen years.

The campaign aims to increase awareness of CDC’s vaccination recommendations for 11 and 12 year olds to protect them from potentially serious infections such as whooping cough and meningitis, and from cervical cancer. Annual flu shots and vaccination against 2009 H1N1 influenza are also recommended for preteens — they are included in one of the priority groups to receive the first available doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

Ideally vaccines that preteens need will be administered during a medical check-up with your child’s regular physician. Not only can preteen vaccines be given at the check-up, but the physician can also make sure to catch children up on any missed childhood vaccines, such as varicella (chickenpox) and hepatitis B. During the check-up, the physician may also screen for diseases such as diabetes, and discuss physical and social development and how to stay safe and healthy.

The CDC’s recommended vaccines for preteens include:

Tdap vaccine: fights whooping cough (pertussis) plus tetanus and diphtheria.

The Tdap vaccine protects again tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The childhood Tdap vaccine also protects against these diseases, but it wears off over time, so a booster is recommended at ages 11 or 12. Until 2005, there was not a booster for pertussis — the Td booster for tetanus and diphtheria was recommended.

With exception of influenza, pertussis is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in American preteens and the one that is most likely to be spread through schools. Pertussis often goes unrecognized by health providers, creating a misperception that it is not a problem.

Meningococcal vaccine: fights bacterial meningitis.

The meningococcal vaccine protects against meningococcal disease, which can spread quickly in crowded conditions such as classrooms and summer camps. Meningococcal disease is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, which is a serious infection of the protective lining of the brain and the spinal cord. It can also result in serious bloodstream infections or pneumonia. The result of infection can be devastating. Adolescents die in about 10 percent of cases, even with antibiotic treatment. About 20 percent of survivors will have long-term disability, such as loss of a limb, deafness, nervous system problems, or mental retardation. Meningococcal disease is particularly dangerous because it can progress rapidly and result in death in 48 hours or less.

HPV vaccine: Fights human papilloma virus.

The HPV vaccine protects against human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts. HPV is very common — up to 80 percent of sexually active women will contract HPV during their lifetime. The HPV vaccine protects against 70 percent of HPV-related cervical cancers and up to 90 percent of HPV-related cases of genital warts.

HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are many different types of HPV. Some can cause cervical cancer in women. Other types of HPV can cause genital warts in both males and females. Each year about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,000 women die from it in the United States, according to data from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries.

Native American women have relatively high rates of cervical cancer, which can be prevented by the HPV vaccine. Nationwide, the cervical cancer rate for Native American women is 9.4 per 100,000, compared with 7.4 for non-Hispanic white women, according to “Cancer Among American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States.” It’s very important to note that females who complete HPV vaccination still need regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancers that are caused by types of HPV that are not included in the vaccine.

The recommendation for girls is that they routinely receive vaccine against HPV. The recommendation for boys is a bit different — parents and their sons may choose to get the version of the HPV vaccine that includes protection against warts transmitted by sexual contact but it is not recommended for routine administration like the other vaccines.

Flu shots: Protect against seasonal influenza and 2009 H1N1 influenza.

When the 2009 H1N1 outbreak was first detected, CDC began working with states to collect, compile and analyze information regarding the outbreak, including the numbers of confirmed and probable cases and the ages of these people. The information analyzed by CDC supports the conclusion that 2009 H1N1 flu has caused greater disease burden in people younger than 25 years of age than older people.

Catch-up vaccines

Preteens should also be caught up on some of the vaccines that are recommended for infants and children, including hepatitis b, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio and varicella (chickenpox). Preteens who only got one shot against chickenpox should get the second recommended dose.