Ads before movies urge teens to catch up on vaccinations

As theatergoers in Everett and Marysville dip into their popcorn and wait for the movie to begin, they might be surprised at what flashes up on the screen.

Not an ad for the next summer blockbuster, but one aimed at coaxing teens to get caught up on their immunizations before they head back to school or college.

The ads, targeted at youths ages 11 to 18, are being played at Everett Mall Stadium and Regal Marysville cinemas through Sept. 11.

The vaccine to prevent meningitis, which can spread in college dorms, is one of the shots the ads are encouraging teens to get.

Other immunizations the ads promote for adolescents prevent hepatitis B, cervical cancer and influenza.

“Meningitis is not trivial,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “It can be fatal or cause lifelong disability.”

Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States, according to the American College Health Association.

However, only about 12 percent of adolescents have received the meningitis vaccine, according to a national survey conducted last year by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And just 11 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds received the whooping cough booster.

Researchers suspect the low immunization rates for adolescents may be due to preteens and teens not going to the doctor as much as younger children or not having health insurance, said Nicole Pender, a health educator for the state Department of Health.

“We want to make sure that kids heading into their teen and adult years maintain their health and are protected against these diseases,” she said.

Preteens and teens are a key group to get vaccinated because they can quickly spread disease to younger siblings, parents or grandparents, she said.

The Snohomish Health District received a $3,700 grant from the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis to have the 15-second ads produced, spokeswoman Suzanne Pate said.

Using theater ads to promote health messages is becoming increasingly common, said Amy Jane Finnerty, a spokeswoman for National Cinemedia, which developed the ads.

Several years ago, she said, ads urging people to cover their mouths when coughing and wash their hands during flu season played in King County theaters.

Goldbaum said the reason the public health agency decided to use theater ads to get out the immunization message is simple: Adolescents go to the movies.

“This is about going … where teens can be reached,” he said.

Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

An advertisement by the Snohomish Health District aims to convince teens to get immunizations. It’s airing before movies at theaters in Everett and Marysville.

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