Healthy Teens Begin with Vaccination

Dangerous diseases can be passed from one child to another, but many of them are easily preventable through immunization. The Houston Area Immunization Partnership urges parents of 7th graders to take action and have their kids immunized. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Three updated vaccines are essential for some 74-thousand Harris County students entering the 7th grade. Mark Ritter is with the Texas Department of State Health Services. He says students are required to receive vaccines for chicken pox, meningitis and whooping cough before the next school year.

"August first, so they have to have those vaccines; they cannot be enrolled into the school, and then come back and say 'Oh, I'll get those later'. Provisional enrollment means that you have to show that you've started the series, and since these are all single dose vaccines, you don't start the series, you get the shot. And, if you're immunized, then you'll be admitted into school after August first. If not, then you won't be."

Anna Dragsbaek, executive director of the Houston Area Immunization Partnership says parents who think they're protecting their kids by NOT having them vaccinated are being short-sighted.

"Yes, because the danger of not getting the vaccine is actually much greater than the danger that the vaccine poses. These vaccines have been widely tested, have been used for many, many years, and are safe and effective."

Doctor Amy Middleman directs adolescent and young adult immunization for the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research. She says the vaccines are developed specifically for the targeted age group.

"This age group is extremely important. Number one, adolescents tend to fraternize and be together. They're on sports teams. They're in locker rooms. They pass disease among each other very easily. So, they actually serve an incredible reservoir for disease. Immunization is incredibly important for that reason."

Patsy Shaunbaum's daughter Jamie was not immunized for meningitis. When she got sick, the time to act to save her life was very short.

"She had both legs below the knee removed, and she lost all her fingers, and we were able to save some digits, and only because what she got was meningococcal septicemia, which meningitis -- sometimes you think of it affecting the brain -- it affected her blood. So, it shut down all the veins going to her extremities, and everything just turned black."

Hernandez: "So, how do you feel, or how does your daughter feel about being a spokesman for you gotta get immunized?"

Shaunbaum: "Somebody called me and said because of your daughter, I went and took my daughter to be vaccinated. And I told her that. You're making people aware of what...I know it's cliché, but there's a purpose."

More information can be found at www.vaccines.texaschildrens.org or www.immunizehouston.org.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...