Minnesota Lynx Guard Candice Wiggins Joins Vaccines for Teens Educational Campaign to Urge Local Teens to Get Vaccinated

Basketball Superstar Encourages Local Teens to Stay in the Game and Get Vaccinated - It's More Important Than Ever

Jun 02, 2010, 09:00 ET from Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

MINNEAPOLIS, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Minnesota Lynx guard and Vaccines for Teens spokesperson Candice Wiggins teamed up with WNBA Cares and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) today to bring Vaccines for Teens to the Minneapolis 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, Wiggins appeared at Olson Middle School in Minneapolis, Minnesota to urge parents of preteens and teens to discuss adolescent vaccinations with their family physicians.  

Teens are at risk for influenza, including seasonal strains and the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus, as well as other serious infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease (including meningitis) and whooping cough (pertussis).  The basketball superstar and local community leaders agree that because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination for preteens and teens against influenza, meningococcal disease, whooping cough and human papillomavirus (HPV), it is now more important than ever to help protect preteens and teens in the Minneapolis area from potentially life-threatening complications of these diseases.

"Vaccination can help teens grow into healthy adults, and is beneficial for the students at Olson Middle School and for teens throughout the Minneapolis area," said Wiggins.  "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 Minneapolis

Although the CDC and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination against influenza, meningococcal disease and whooping cough, immunization rates for all three diseases among preteens and teens remain alarmingly low in Minnesota, where only around 40 percent of teens between 13 and 17 years of age have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease and whooping cough.

Adolescent immunization in Minnesota is a very important community health issue.  Between 19,130 and 76,521 Minneapolis residents suffer from influenza annually, yet immunization rates fall short each year. During the 2009-2010 influenza season, there were at least 1,880 hospitalizations and 70 deaths due to influenza in Minnesota.

When parents get ready to send their children back to school in the fall, they should also prepare to have their families immunized against influenza as soon as vaccine is available.  It's never too early to begin thinking about the flu.  

Meningococcal disease and whooping cough affect people in the Minnesota area every year.  As summer approaches, parents need to know meningococcal disease can spread from person to person through common summer activities, such as sharing water bottles or eating utensils and living in close quarters at camp.  

In addition, cases of whooping cough in both Hennepin County and Minnesota have increased over the past several years.

"With teens in such close contact in classrooms and on school sports teams, these infectious diseases can spread easily from student to student," said Julia Joseph-DiCaprio, M.D., Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.  "Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help teens stay protected, yet immunization rates remain low among adolescents."

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

About Vaccine-preventable Adolescent Diseases

Immunization is critically important for adolescents because they are at risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.


Influenza 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. 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 Meningitis

Although 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.  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 whooping cough vaccine decreases over time, so teens who don't receive a booster vaccine may become vulnerable to this disease.

About the Vaccines for Teens Campaign

The 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 the WNBA

The WNBA is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity.  Now preparing for its 14th season, the WNBA is the most successful women's professional team sports league in the world.  The 2009 regular season featured increased attendance for the third consecutive year and increased viewership on ESPN2 for the second straight summer.  Average viewership on ESPN2 jumped 76 percent from a year ago for the 2009 WNBA Finals presented by adidas.  The five-game series also featured three sellouts plus the highest total attendance figure (82,018) in WNBA Finals history.  

Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women's health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education.  For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

About the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

SAHM 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 www.adolescenthealth.org.  

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).

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, provided more than 1.6 billion doses of vaccine in 2008, 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: http://www.sanofipasteur.com or www.sanofipasteur.us.


WNBA Communications:

Dina Skokos

(212) 407-8840


Minnesota Lynx:

Aaron Seehusen

(612) 673-1602


Vaccines for Teens:

Iris Shaffer

(708) 799-6284


SOURCE Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine