PREVNAR: IT'S BACK! It's time to resume the full, four-dose routine vaccination schedule for Prevnar (aka pneumococcal conjugate vaccine). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several pediatric health care groups made the recommendation because vaccine supply is now sufficient to meet national demand.

Production problems earlier this year caused shortages, prompting health groups in March to reduce the recommended four doses to two for healthy children. By July, supplies improved to permit raising the recommendation to three doses. There is now enough Prevnar to permit the four-dose routine.

The vaccine can help prevent meningitis and blood infections, which in some cases are fatal. Invasive pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States; children under 2 are at highest risk. Before the vaccine was introduced, pneumococcal infection caused more than 700 cases of meningitis, 13,000 blood infections and 5 million ear infections yearly.

The recommended four-dose schedule includes one dose each at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age, and one more at 12 to 15 months.

The health groups also recommended a catch-up schedule for children who missed vaccinations during the shortage. The highest priority for catch-ups are children under 5 with sickle cell disease or chronic illnesses, or who are immunosuppressed.

EASY DOES IT. Young, injury-prone soccer players should not "play through" foot and ankle pain, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) reminds parents and coaches.

"Kids will play with lingering, nagging heel pain that, upon testing, turns out to be a stress fracture that neither they, their parents nor their coaches were aware of," said Christopher Hendrix, an ACFAS podiatric surgeon. Hendrix said he has actually had to show parents X-rays of fractures before they would agree to bench their kids.

Symptoms of stress fractures include pain during normal activity and when touching the area and swelling without bruising. Treatment usually involves rest, but casting is sometimes required.

YES, BUT DO THEIR PARENTS FLOSS? A Gallup survey released last week reveals that most teens (64 percent) say they brush their teeth twice a day or more. One-third report brushing their teeth only once a day. (Two percent brush less than that. Yeech.) What about flossing, you ask? Only 13 percent of teens floss daily, and 44 percent say they rarely or never floss.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports