Importance of Immunizations for 11 and 12 Year Olds

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State Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Horton today joined local officials at Jonas Salk High-Tech Academy in Sacramento to kick off Preteen Vaccine Week by educating 11 and 12 year olds about preteen immunizations and the importance of the preteen doctor visit.

"Preteen Vaccine Week highlights California's commitment to ensuring that our kids get immunized so they can avoid serious, but preventable infections and reach their full potential," Horton said. "Keeping our young people healthy and safe is a priority for everyone."

Today's event was sponsored by the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) in partnership with the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services, California Coalition for Childhood Immunization and California Distance Learning Heath Network. Featured activities included students shooting baskets with Ruthie Bolton, two-time Olympic gold medalist and former player of the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, and an immunization rap with Lee Perkins, DJ for Sacramento radio station V101.1. Students were given orange awareness bands embossed with this year's theme: "Immunizations Are Your Best Shot!"

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"The preteen doctor visit will ensure preteens receive the appropriate vaccinations they need to stay healthy as they approach adolescence," Horton said.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all 11 and 12 year olds get the following immunizations: meningococcal vaccine, Tdap (tetanus booster with protection against pertussis) and a second chickenpox vaccine (if they have never had chickenpox). The new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for girls.

The meningococcal vaccine protects against one form of meningitis, a serious infection in the brain or spinal cord. It is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing or even sharing drinks. Meningitis can be fatal. Those who survive may be left with brain damage or deafness.

"California's youth are our greatest asset," said Dr. Howard Backer, chief of CDHS' Immunization Branch. "Protecting their health is the responsibility of parents, medical providers and public health working together. Periodic visits to a health care provider protects their health and teaches them how to maintain good health for the future."

In support of California's efforts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed January 21 to 27 as Preteen Vaccine Week in California.

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