Back to School: Vaccines

Aug 2, 2011, 3:54 PM, Posted by

A nurse prepares a needle to give a patient a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding families that teens, just like younger kids, need to be up to date on vaccinations. Teens who missed out on some vaccines when they were younger should catch up. Physicians and community health clinics can set up a vaccine schedule, and the CDC provides an interactive tool to keep track of the vaccine schedule for adolescents.

These vaccines or vaccine boosters are recommended specifically for preteens and teens:

  • Tdap vaccine

    The Tdap vaccine protects against 3 diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also called "whooping cough"). The initial vaccinations younger kids get against the disease wear off so a booster is recommended at age 11 or 12; or for older teens if they never had the booster.

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine

    The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) helps prevent meningococcal meningitis, which can become deadly in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment, people die in about 10% of cases, and survivors can have long-term disabilities such as deafness or brain damage. Preteens should receive the MCV4 vaccine at age 11 or 12 and then get a booster at age 16. Most colleges require the vaccine before the start of Freshman year.

  • HPV vaccine

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines protect girls and young women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancer. One HPV vaccine also prevents anal cancer and genital warts in both females and males. Doctors recommend the HPV vaccine for girls at age 11 or 12 to protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Doctors and parents may also choose to vaccinate boys of the same age to protect them from the types of HPV that cause anal cancer and genital warts. HPV vaccines are given as three shots over 6 months and all three are needed for full protection.

  • Flu vaccine

    The seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine protects against 3 influenza viruses that research at the end of each flu season shows will be most common during the next flu season. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year.

  • These CDC tools can help you find additional information about vaccinations:

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.