Basketball great and WNBA star team up to support vaccination program

Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier and Tulsa Shock guard Andrea Riley have joined NBA Cares and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine to bring the Vaccines for Teens program to the Tulsa area.

The program is a national awareness campaign attempting to educate teens and parents about the importance of vaccinations against potentially life-threatening diseases.

Riley and Lanier appeared at Madison Middle School to urge the parents of teens and preteens to discuss vaccinations for adolescents with their family physicians.

"Vaccination can help teens grow into healthy adults, and should be encouraged for the students at Madison Middle School and for teens throughout the Tulsa area," Riley said. "In basketball, the best offense is a good defense, and the same holds true for protecting teen health."

Some of the vaccinations available for adolescents include those for serious infections like influenza, pertussis, and meningococcal disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccination for preteens and teens against these three conditions. The vaccination rate for teens between the ages of 13 and 17 in Oklahoma against meningococcal disease and pertussis is less than 50 percent.

Fifteen cases of meningococcal invasive disease have been reported in Oklahoma since 2010. Around 1,000 cases of influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported in Oklahoma since September 1, with 48 percent of them occurring among children 17 years of age or younger.

"With teens in such close contact in classrooms and on school sports teams, these infectious diseases can spread easily from student to student," Philip J. Rettig of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and a professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital at Oklahoma University Medical Center said. "Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help teens stay protected, yet immunization rates remain low in this population."