By Monica Gordon
Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner
Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion and NBA legend Bob Lanier joined the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine at a recent Vaccines for Teens event to raise vaccine awareness. Vaccines for Teens is a national awareness campaign designed to educate preteens, teens, and their parents about the importance of vaccination against serious potentially life-threatening diseases. Dr. Carlos Oliveira came on behalf of SAHM in collaboration with sanofi pasteur – the vaccines division of the sanofi Aventis group to discuss the importance of vaccines with about 350 teens and preteens at Sam Tasby Middle School.
“The main idea is to be able to educate and teach kids about the vaccine, so that in turn they might be able to encourage their parents to take them to see their doctor, be able to take care of themselves, and for the kids to take charge of their own health and not be dependent on other people,” Oliveira said.
A Children’s Medical Center of Dallas doctor said it was important for youth to learn the value of getting vaccinated before going to college. Living in college dormitories with other teenagers puts them at a higher risk of getting diseases like the flu, meningitis, and pertussis because of their proximity with people that may or may not be vaccinated themselves.
“For these specific illnesses, they are spread through coughing, sneezing, and secretions and so the more time you spend in that environment with people that are going to be spending a long time in the room with you, the higher the risk for the illnesses,” he said.
According to him, the teen event went very well. “I thought it was a great turnout. There were a good amount of kids at the school. They were very receptive and I felt like they really received the message we came to give them. I wanted to educate the preteens and teens about the importance of vaccines and what these vaccines could help,” he said.
However, he feels vaccines are just one of the many health issues important to youth.
“I also wanted to educate them on having a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy and taking care of themselves,” said Oliveira, adding that he has also spoken to teens about STD awareness, prevention, and abstinence.
His line of work has offered him a front row seat to children burdened with infections that could have been prevented had the proper vaccine been received.
“Seeing all the kids coming in the hospital I feel like it’s a shame that kids come to the hospital so often,” he said. “It has terrible consequences for them, so if I could somehow spread the word that the vaccines are safe and can prevent those three illnesses I could improve the health of my community and educate them about the benefits of getting vaccinated.”
Oliveira stated that not only does a vaccination help a preteen or teenager, but in most cases, it also saves an infant or toddler from contracting an infection from a teenager. When it comes to African Americans, he said from what he sees as they become teens they are only brought into the doctor when something is wrong.
“I don’t have any specific data, but personally I have seen that the African American community does come to get vaccinated in the clinic often, but I feel like they do fail to come whenever they are teenagers. But, when they do get vaccinated whenever they are younger as infants their parents are really good about bringing them to the hospital. But, once they become teens and preteens we typically don’t see them until they get sick.”
According to a press release on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: Although poverty was not a barrier to receiving any of the three adolescent vaccines, financial challenges could prevent some teens from getting vaccinated. Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their health care provider about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides free vaccines to uninsured children and many others with financial barriers.
For help in finding a local health care provider who participates in the program, call 800-CDC-INFO or go to http://www.cdc.go/vaccines.