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Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook and NBA Legend Bob Lanier Join Vaccines for Teens Educational Campaign to Urge Local Teens to Take Their Best Shot at Health

OKLAHOMA CITY, Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier teamed up with NBA Cares and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) today to bring Vaccines for Teens to the Oklahoma City community.  Vaccines for Teens is a national awareness campaign designed to educate teens and their parents about the importance of vaccination against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

To tip off the campaign locally, Lanier and Westbrook appeared at Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma City to urge parents of preteens and teens to discuss adolescent vaccinations with their family physicians.

Teens are at risk for serious infections such as influenza, meningococcal disease (meningitis) and pertussis (whooping cough). The basketball superstars and local community leaders agree that it is now more important than ever to help protect preteens and teens in the Oklahoma City area from potentially life-threatening complications of these diseases.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination for preteens and teens against influenza, meningococcal disease and pertussis.

"Vaccination can help teens grow into healthy adults, and should be encouraged for the students at Roosevelt Middle School and for teens throughout the Oklahoma City area," said Westbrook.  "In basketball, the best offense is a good defense, and the same holds true for protecting teen health."

Adolescent Immunization is More Important than Ever in Oklahoma CityAlthough the CDC and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination against influenza, meningococcal disease and pertussis, immunization rates for prevention of all three diseases among preteens and teens remain unacceptably low in Oklahoma, where less than half of teens between 13 and 17 years of age have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease and pertussis.

Adolescent immunization in Oklahoma City is a very important community health issue. With seasonal influenza currently circulating in the area, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is encouraging preteens and teens to be vaccinated against the virus.  Since September 1, 2010, there have been 13 hospitalizations and one death attributed to influenza in Oklahoma. Between 27,226 and 108,907 Oklahoma City area residents suffer from influenza annually, yet immunization rates fall short each year.

In addition, the Oklahoma State Department of Health recently updated the state immunization requirements. Beginning next year, students entering seventh grade will be required to receive a booster shot of the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine to help protect against whooping cough. Meningococcal disease cases also peak in December and January.  Since January 1, 2010, 15 cases of meningococcal invasive disease were reported in Oklahoma, reinforcing that it is a crucial time for Oklahoma City parents to have their children vaccinated against these potentially deadly diseases.

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

Teens and their parents can learn more about risk factors for getting sick with vaccine-preventable diseases, and the benefits of vaccination, by visiting

About Vaccine-preventable Adolescent Diseases Immunization is critically important for adolescents because they are at risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

InfluenzaInfluenza is a viral infection that can become serious enough to keep teens home from school, sports and other activities.  It can sometimes result in a visit to the hospital or lead to serious complications like pneumonia or even death.  Vaccination is the best protection against the spread of the influenza virus. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against influenza each year.  This year, the seasonal influenza vaccine includes the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain, so only the seasonal influenza vaccine is needed. Vaccination begins as soon as vaccine becomes available, usually in August, and continues into spring or as long as the influenza virus is in circulation.  In most seasons, influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

Meningococcal Disease / Meningococcal MeningitisAlthough rare, meningococcal disease, including meningitis, is a serious, life-threatening infection that moves quickly and can lead to death within 24 to 48 hours of first symptoms.  Early symptoms may be similar to influenza, making it difficult for health-care providers to diagnose.  Currently, the CDC recommends that all preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age be vaccinated against meningococcal disease at the earliest possible health-care visit – ideally, during the routine 11- or 12-year-old check-up.

Pertussis, Commonly Called "Whooping Cough"Pertussis is one of the most common respiratory diseases in American teens and adults. It causes a prolonged cough that can last weeks or months and can result in pneumonia or hospitalization.   Teens and adults can spread pertussis to younger children, who can develop a life-threatening pertussis infection.  The CDC recommends a single booster dose of Tdap vaccine for people 11 through 64 years of age; immunity to the pertussis vaccine decreases over time, so teens who don't receive a booster vaccine may become vulnerable to this disease.

About the Vaccines for Teens CampaignThe NBA and the WNBA are collaborating with the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) and sanofi pasteur on Vaccines for Teens, a national campaign designed to help educate parents and their teens about the importance of getting vaccinated.

About NBA CaresNBA Cares is the league's social responsibility initiative that builds on the NBA's long tradition of addressing important social issues in the United States and around the world.  Through this umbrella program, the NBA, its teams and players have donated than $145 million to charity, completed more than 1.4 million hours of hands-on community service, and created more than 525 places where kids and families can live, learn, or play, in 22 countries on five continents. NBA Cares works with internationally recognized youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes, including: KaBOOM!, Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

About the Society for Adolescent Health and MedicineSAHM is a multi-disciplinary organization of health professionals who are committed to advancing the health and well-being of adolescents. Through education, research, clinical services, and advocacy activities, members of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine strive to enhance public and professional awareness of adolescent health issues among families, educators, policy makers, youth-serving organizations, students who are considering a health career as well as other health professionals. SAHM members come from many different professional disciplines but share the common goal of better understanding the unique health needs and concerns of adolescents.  For more information on SAHM, log onto

About sanofi-aventis Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of everyone. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY). For more information, please visit:

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, provided more than 1.6 billion doses of vaccine in 2009, making it possible to immunize more than 500 million people across the globe. A world leader in the vaccine industry, Sanofi Pasteur offers the broadest range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious diseases. The company's heritage, to create vaccines that protect life, dates back more than a century. Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company entirely dedicated to vaccines. Every day, the company invests more than EUR 1 million in research and development. For more information, please visit: or PR:Dan SAHM:Kasia Chalko847-753-5226 ext.

SOURCE Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
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