Basketball superstars urge teens to stay in the game

DETROIT — Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko and NBA legend Bob Lanier teamed up with NBA Cares and the Society for Adolescent Medicine on March 29 to bring Vaccines for Teens to the Metro Detroit community.

Vaccines for Teens is a national multimedia campaign designed to educate teens and their parents about the importance of vaccination against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

Jerebko and Lanier appeared in Pontiac to urge parents of preteens and teens to discuss adolescent vaccinations with their family physicians.

The basketball superstars and community leaders agreed that it is more important than ever to help protect preteens and teens in Metro Detroit from the potentially life-threatening complications of these diseases.

"Vaccination can help teens grow into healthy adults, and is beneficial for the students at Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac and for teens throughout the Metro Detroit area," Jerebko said. "In basketball, the best offense is a good defense, and the same holds true for protecting teen health."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for preteens and teens against influenza, meningococcal meningitis and whooping cough (pertussis). Yet vaccination rates for all three diseases among this group remain low in Michigan, where fewer than 40 percent of teens 13 to 17 have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease and whooping cough.

Between 47,500 and 190,000 Metro Detroit residents suffer from influenza annually, yet immunization rates fall short each year. Amid concerns about influenza this time of year, parents also need to know that late winter and early spring is peak season for meningococcal meningitis.

Michigan has one of the highest rates of whooping cough in the nation — and cases have increased during the past few years.

To help protect adolescents, new immunization requirements issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health went into effect on Jan. 1 requiring that students 11 to 18 enrolled in sixth grade or changing school districts receive the meningococcal meningitis vaccine and one booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.

"With teens in such close contact in classrooms and on school sports teams, these infectious diseases can spread easily from student to student," said Howard Schubiner of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. "Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help teens stay protected, yet immunization rates remain low in this population."