According to a new survey conducted by the Unity Consortium, 92 percent of parents and 88 percent of teens surveyed believe it is important for all teens to be vaccinated, but the stark reality is that vaccination rates are lower than where they should be.
For instance, less than 50 percent of male teens and 65 percent of female teens have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine series, despite it preventing certain types of cancer.
Unfortunately, the survey showed that both parents’ and teens’ attitude towards preventive health and vaccines could impede them taking action to improve their future health prospects. How?
The survey results show that:
1) One in four parents and teens think vaccines are for babies and not as important for teens. This is worrisome, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations specifically for teenagers, which are for serious diseases not entirely covered in infant and childhood shots.
2) Four in 10 parents and six in 10 teens believe teens should only see a doctor when he/she feels sick, reducing opportunities to discuss preventive health measures, such as vaccines. While annual check-ups are critical, the 11-12 and 16-year appointments are essential for teens to get their recommended vaccinations. Notably, the survey also queried physicians and found that less than half have reminders in place to remind teens or their parents about needed or missed vaccinations. This combination uncovers a clear gap in the opportunity to assess and vaccinate.
3) Many parents don’t know which vaccines are recommended for teens or how being vaccinated helps their child now or in the future. We’re lucky to live in a time where parents and children are not fully aware of the serious consequences of contagious and serious diseases precisely because public and widespread vaccination has been so successful. Most people do not remember a time when polio, diphtheria and measles had a devastating and lasting impact on the health of children. To protect individuals, it’s vital to keep vaccination rates high.
The CDC recommends that adolescents receive the following vaccines to protect their health in the short and long-term.
- Meningococcal: Two distinct meningococcal disease vaccines (ACWY and B) protect against the most common types of bacterial meningitis. While most people recover from meningitis, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) and even death can result from the infection. Receiving both vaccines can help heighten protection.
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis [whooping cough]) and Td Booster (tetanus and diphtheria): Recently, there have been outbreaks of whopping cough in the United States.
- HPV (human papillomavirus): The vaccine is most effective at preventing HPV-associated cancers in both boys and girls when given during preteen years.
- Flu: More serious than a cold, flu impacts an infected person for up to two weeks, but can also lead to serious and even deadly complications. A flu vaccination is needed annually as the flu strains change, and while there is still a low risk of catching the flu even with the shot, patients will often experience a milder case of the flu if vaccinated.
For decades, vaccines have improved our health prospects, often providing a lifetime of protection. Hundreds of studies demonstrate that vaccines are safe and deliver overwhelming benefit. This summer, take a look at your calendar and determine if it’s time for a visit with your child’s healthcare provider. Ask questions about the vaccines they may need. For more information about Unity Consortium and the importance of preventive teen health strategies and vaccination visit http://www.unity4teenvax.org/