Video contest held for immunization
Local doc wants teens to teach each other about vaccinations
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Oct 17, 2012 | 4057 views | 0 0 comments | 697 697 recommendations | email to a friend | print

“The reason it’s important that teens get their immunization updates isn’t that they might get the diseases themselves, but they might give it to younger children,” said Dr. Virginia Witt, who practices family medicine in Hoboken, promoting a statewide video contest to encourage people to get vaccines.

The Partnership for Maternal & Child Health of Northern New Jersey, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health, announced launched of the “Protect Me With 3” video contest in an effort to broaden public awareness on the importance of adolescent vaccinations. The contest is designed to promote creativity and expand knowledge of the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine (T-DAP), as well as meningococcal conjugate and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunizations among New Jersey pre-teens and teens.

Participants are asked to submit a 30-second video informing their peers about the causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention of pertussis, meningococcal disease, or HPV, and motivating them to seek vaccination against these diseases.

“The best time for adolescents to receive vaccines is during an annual health check-up at 11 to 12 years of age,” said Witt. “Booster shots may also be necessary to ensure continued protection for teens who received their vaccinations early in life. Part of every annual checkup should be a review of immunization history for both adults and children.”

“We are honored to work alongside the partnership to empower New Jersey’s youth to take a more active role in their health,” explained Mary O’Dowd, commissioner of New Jersey Department of Health. “With the increase in the number of pertussis cases this year, it is more important than ever for adolescents and their parents/guardians talk to their health care provider to ensure they are in the New Jersey Immunization Information System, our confidential, web-based immunization registry, and that they have received all of the recommended vaccinations.”

Many people are using a loophole in national health law that allows people to avoid giving their children immunizations because of religious reasons.

“In many cases, it is not because of religious reasons,” Dr. Witt said. “It is because they are frightened and they believe the ton of information available on the internet about the dangers of immunization.”

Some believe that vaccines can cause autism or other childhood problems. However, some of this fear comes from a case in which a doctor in Great Britain published a study suggesting there is a link between measles vaccinations and autism. The study was later found to have been flawed.

“This will educate the kids and get them creating something.” – Virginia Witt

Debate continues

Some states have begun tightening the vaccination loopholes because of the sharp increase in otherwise preventable diseases such as whooping cough, which has seen a significant outbreak in New Jersey.

While the percentage of parents opting out is slightly over two percent nationwide, this has doubled over the previous year, according to federal statistics.

Vaccines are seen as one of the great advances in modern medicine and have been responsible for the sharp drop in childhood diseases since vaccinations were introduced to the general public in the 1940s.

Unimmunized babies face a host of dangerous and life-threatening diseases, from diphtheria and tetanus to meningitis, as well as Hepatitis A and B, not to mention polio – all of which are preventable through immunization. Senior citizens risk death by not getting an immunization against influenza.

Vaccines are usually covered by insurance, and state and federal programs that provide for children who cannot afford to be immunized.

Dr. Witt is not just looking for vaccinate young children, but also teens, and she hopes the video contest can get a conversation going that will encourage people to take the need for vaccination seriously.

“This will educate the kids and get them creating something,” Dr. Witt said. “They learn along the way.”

Whooping cough is a particular problem since it has made a comeback and seeing the highest rates since 1960 with more than 29,000 cases and 14 deaths this year in New Jersey in 2012. It is particularly dangerous for babies, who tend to get it from parents.

“This is totally preventable,” Dr. Witt said.

While teens hardly see any deaths from these diseases, the immunity wears off and these teens can pass these diseases onto babies and young adults.

“I offer the booster to everyone because they could pass it on to someone else,” she said.

Teens need to get booster shots from nine to 12, and the again at about 18 before they go off to college.

Submissions for the “Protect Me With 3” video contest are being accepted now through Oct. 29. Each video submission must educate viewers on one of the three diseases and contain three to five facts provided in the Vaccine PSA toolkit. An internal panel will complete the first round of judging, and the winning entries will be determined by public vote. The grand prize winner will receive an iPad 3 and chance to have their video aired on television. The top two runners-up will receive monetary gifts of $250 and $150.

For more information regarding eligibility, video submission guidelines and contest rules, please visit Entrants are encouraged to Tweet their participation using #protectmewith3.

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