Print RSS Newsletter

Billups helps lead campaign to promote vaccinations

Nuggets guard, father of three a spokesman for Vaccines For Teens


Chauncey Billups has endured shooting slumps and experienced gut-wrenching defeats.

They don’t compare to the helpless feeling he gets when one of his daughters falls prey to the cold or flu.

“It’s the worst,” he said. “You just hate to see their mood change and see them just kind of laying around the house being quiet and not playing. Every single time, I would wish I could just push a button and it be me who’s sick and not them.”

In his 14 NBA seasons, Billups has been an All-Star and a Finals MVP, but he’s just like any other parent when it comes to the health of his three girls. He often takes Cydney (13), Ciara (10) and Cenaiya (4) to the doctor’s office for checkups and vaccinations.

“I’m a regular human being,” he said. “I’m a regular dad.”

In his duel role as father and Nuggets point guard, Billups is serving as a spokesman for the NBA’s Vaccines for Teens campaign aimed at educating teens, preteens and their parents about the importance of vaccination against potentially life-threatening diseases.

He appeared at a promotional event at Merrill Middle School in Denver to spread the message about protecting teens against the dangers of the flu, pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) and meningitis.

“Given the media prominence of the NBA and somebody like Chauncey, getting him to deliver a message about health and immunization is so much more impactful than anything a doctor can say,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, who operates the non-profit Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics. “The reality is they’ll listen to a Chauncey Billups more than they’ll listen to a Dr. Wolk.”

Whether it’s vaccination against the flu or a cancer screening, the best way to protect against disease and illness is to take preventative measures.

Most parents are familiar with vaccinations for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only half of adolescents 13 to 17 nationally have been vaccinated against pertussis and meningitis.

Joni Reynolds, a registered nurse who serves as director of the Colorado Immunization Program, said Colorado is a national leader in whooping cough vaccinations for teens and preteens because it is required for school admission.

Vaccines against the flu and meningitis lag behind, in part because of lack of awareness and the time span between vaccinations at the start of kindergarten and high school.

“It’s a huge gap,” Billups said. ‘You don’t go back until you’re a teenager and you think you’re too cool for it. ‘At 14, I’m getting a shot? Are you serious?’ Some kids think it’s just not cool to do, but health is more important than anything. The healthier you are, the better life that you’re going to live.”

Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a tragedy to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated.

The deaths of three Fort Collins hockey players from meningococcal disease made headlines in 2010 and Reynolds is hoping that Billups’ involvement will further spread the word.

“We worry that kids who get sick from this diseases will be on the sideline,” Reynolds said. “They won’t be an aspiring young athlete.”

Reynolds and Wolk also point out that some parents fall trap to the myths about the dangers of vaccines.

“People need to realize that the diseases are far more detrimental than the vaccines themselves,” Wolk said.

For more details about the Vaccines For Teens program and additional health information, visit www.vaccinesforteens.net/vft.html, www.rockymountainyouth.org and www.immunizeforgood.com.


Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press. Follow him on twitter @Lopez_Nuggets. Aaron's full bio...