Renowned Latina Health Expert Dr. Aliza Lifshitz Joins Vacune a Sus Hijos Adolescentes to inform parents about free or low-cost vaccines available to eligible children

Eastmont Community Center responded today to alarmingly low whooping cough and meningococcal meningitis immunization rates among Latino adolescents by launching a new adolescent immunization awareness initiative. The grassroots campaign aims to educate local Latino families about free or low-cost vaccines available to help protect children against these and other infectious diseases.

Only around half of Latino preteens and teens are vaccinated against these potentially life-threatening infections, putting them and their communities at increased risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eastmont’s public awareness initiative, made possible with support by Sanofi Pasteur, is called Vacune a Sus Hijos Adolescentes (Get Your Teens Vaccinated). The new program will inform parents that vaccination is more important than ever in light of the statewide whooping cough epidemic.

Through a coalition of trusted local partners including public health organizations, medical centers, businesses, schools, churches and civic groups, Vacune a Sus Hijos Adolescentes will encourage parents to contact their health-care provider or local public health department to learn if their children qualify for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. Under this program, eligible children can receive free or low-cost vaccines that can help protect them against whooping cough, meningitis and other vaccine-preventable infections.

“We will reach parents with these important messages in every possible way,” said Teresa Palacios, acting executive director of Eastmont Community Center in East L.A. “We want to make sure L.A. families know that their children may qualify for the VFC program, so that they can get their children vaccinated!”

Grassroots Activities, High-Profile Latina Medical Spokesperson

Vacune a Sus Hijos Adolescentes features a wide variety of educational activities to reach parents in Los Angeles, including radio, TV and newspaper interviews, bus shelter and billboard announcements, special immunization awareness events, radio and TV public service spots, and involvement from civic and political leaders.

Dr. Aliza Lifshitz, the nationally recognized health expert and medical correspondent for multiple Hispanic news programs, is serving as the campaign’s featured health educator and spokesperson. Dr. Aliza, known to millions of Latina women as a trusted source for medical information, will help reach Hispanic families about the low immunization rates among preteens and teens.

“The fact that only half of our teens get vaccinated against infectious diseases is alarming,” said Dr. Aliza. “Since children through 18 years of age in Los Angeles may qualify for these free or low-cost vaccines, parents should not delay getting their children vaccinated.”

Eastmont Community Center and Dr. Aliza will also lead a special task force of Spanish-speaking women, called “Promotoras,” who are specifically trained to disseminate important community messages through word-of-mouth communications. These Promotoras will span across the city’s Hispanic communities to speak one-on-one with parents and create deeper awareness about Vacune a Sus Hijos Adolescentes.

Preteens and Teens at Increased Risk

Teens are at risk for potentially life-threatening diseases, such as meningitis and whooping cough. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help protect teens against these serious diseases and can help prevent their spread. However, only around half of Latino teens 13 to 17 years of age have been immunized against meningitis and whooping cough.

Pertussis, commonly called “whooping cough,” is one of the most common respiratory diseases in American teens and adults. Whooping cough can cause a serious cough for weeks or even months. Fifty percent to 80 percent of unvaccinated children who are in school with someone who has whooping cough will also catch the disease. In addition, 90 percent of unvaccinated children living with someone with whooping cough will contract the disease.

Meningitis, although rare, is a serious infection that can cause death within 24 to 48 hours of first symptoms. Meningitis is a highly contagious disease that may be prevented through immunization. Among those who survive, 1 in 5 is left with long-term disabilities including limb amputations, brain damage, and hearing loss. This infection can spread from person to person during common, everyday activities like being in close contact and sharing drinking glasses.

Public health officials recommend that preteens and teens receive a meningococcal vaccination and a tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster vaccine; these and other recommended vaccines are available through the VFC program.

VFC Offers Free or Low-Cost Vaccines

In the U.S., immunization rates for all adolescents are well below public health goals. To help families who might not otherwise get their children vaccinated because of their inability to pay, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides free or low-cost vaccines for children through 18 years of age. Children who are eligible for Medicaid, children without health insurance, and children with private health insurance that does not include vaccines may all be eligible for the VFC program.

Parents are encouraged to contact their health-care provider or their local public health department to find out whether their children are eligible for the VFC vaccination program. To find the nearest VFC provider, parents can visit the California Department of Public Health/California Immunization Coalition’s VFC directory at (click on Programa de vacunas).

SOURCE Eastmont Community Center

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