Q. Why are there immunizations recommended for tweens and teens? Didn't they get all they needed as babies and preschoolers?
A. In teens, their immunity tends to wane over time and they need a booster dose. Tetanus, for example, needs a booster every 10 years. The Tdap includes tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, which is whooping cough. All three of those are very serious illnesses. Also offered and highly recommended by CDC are the HPV and the meningitis vaccine. These are vaccines that are given for the first time in adolescents. The HPV is the first vaccine we've ever had against cancer. It protects against 90 percent of genital warts and 75 percent of cervical cancer if given early. The meningitis vaccine protects against menningoccocal disease; it's a bad meningitis. When I was in the emergency room, I saw a child die in three hours. That's why they developed a vaccine.
Q. Over the next two weeks, county health departments are offering free immunizations. Who are the free immunizations for?
A. It's offered to those 11 through 18 years of age at all county health departments during the last two weeks of June. We encourage them to come 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. because we have to keep them 20 minutes after the injection. All vaccines are free to that age group. If they bring in siblings, they'll be charged, but that's just a $10 administration fee. This is a great time to get vaccines. It will take them out of the rush in August when people are rushed to get immunizations before the start of school, and they'll get them free. It's a huge savings compared to what adults over 18 pay for these vaccines.
Q. What is the new immunization requirement for seventh-graders?
A. The required vaccine is Tdap booster. It has been recommended since 2006 for all children 11 to 18. Tetanus is recommended every 10 years for everyone. They've had outbreaks of these diseases (especially whooping cough) in other areas of the country where the requirements aren't as strict as Mississippi. We've been very fortunate that we haven't had any major outbreaks compared to other states. Mississippi is No. 1 in the nation in childhood immunizations.