Your Preteens and Teens Need Vaccines Too!
Vaccines aren't just for babies. As kids get older, the protection provided by some of the shots given during childhood can begin to wear off. Older kids can also develop risks for certain infections as they enter the preteen and teen years.
The vaccines for preteens and teens help protect your children and their friends, and family members too. There are four vaccines recommended for preteens and teens. All kids should get a flu vaccine every year, and three other vaccines should be given starting when kids are 11 or 12 years old. Teens may need to catch up on vaccines they missed when they were a preteen. Teens may also need a booster of a vaccine that requires more than one dose to be fully protected.
Any visit to the doctor—for an annual health checkup or a physical for sports or college—can be a good time for preteens and teens to get the recommended vaccinations. Even if your child is going to the doctor because they are sick or hurt, they still may be able to get shots that they need. Before visits to the doctor, review this easy-to-read version of the Recommended Immunizations for Children from 7 through 18 Years Old [PDF - 478KB].
Which Vaccines Do Preteens and Teens Need and at What Age?
The following vaccines are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM), and CDC:
- HPV vaccine
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines protect girls and boys against the types of HPV that can cause cancer. In the United States each year, there are about 18,000 women and 7,000 men affected by HPV-related cancers. In both women and men, HPV can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, as well as anal cancer. HPV can also cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancer of the penis in men. Many of these cancers could be prevented with vaccination. Doctors recommend HPV vaccine for 11 and 12 year old girls and boys. HPV vaccines are given in 3 doses (as shots) over 6 months. Teens and young adults (under age 27) who haven’t started or finished the HPV vaccine series, should talk with their parents and/or the doctor about getting those shots now.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) helps prevent meningococcal disease. Meningococcal meningitis can become deadly in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment, about 1 in 10 people with meningococcal disease will die. About 1 in 5 survivors of meningococcal disease have a long-term disability such as deafness, brain damage, or an amputated arm or leg. Preteens should receive this vaccine at age 11 or 12 and then get a booster at age 16. Teens who received MCV4 for the first time when they are 13 through 15 years old will need a one-time booster dose when they are 16 old. If a teen missed getting the vaccine altogether, talk to their doctor about getting it now, especially if they are about to move into a college dorm or military barracks.
- Tdap vaccine The Tdap vaccine protects against 3 diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also called "whooping cough"). The DTaP shots given to infants and young children protect against these diseases, but protection begins to wear off as kids get older. The Tdap vaccine takes the place of what used to be called the "tetanus booster." This booster also provides more protection against whooping cough, which is very contagious. Whooping cough can make preteens and teens sick enough to miss several weeks of school and other activities. It can also be passed on to others, including babies, who can die from it. Preteens (11 or 12 years old) should get a single dose of Tdap. Teens (13 through 18) who have not yet gotten Tdap should get a single dose as soon as possible. You may have heard about pertussis (whooping cough) outbreaks recently. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still real.
- Flu vaccine
The seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Most people sick with the flu will get better in a few days or in about 2 weeks; however, flu is unpredictable. Flu can cause other health problems like ear or sinus infections, as well as bronchitis, a serious lung infection. It is very important for kids with asthma or diabetes to get a flu shot to help decrease their risk of serious health problems caused by flu. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year. Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine in the fall or as soon as it is available each year.
Be sure to check with the doctor to make sure that your teen has received all of the vaccines recommended for children, or if they need to "catch up" on any of the childhood vaccines they may have missed when they were younger.
Preteens and teens might have some mild side effects, such as redness and soreness, where they get a shot (usually in the arm). Some preteens and teens might faint after getting a shot or any other medical procedure. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after getting shots can help prevent fainting. Most side effects from vaccines are very minor, especially compared with the serious diseases that these vaccines prevent.
Need Help Paying for Vaccines?
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. If you don't have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help.
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) or have no health insurance. "Underinsured" children who have health insurance that does not cover vaccination can receive VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers.
- Get more information about vaccines for preteens and teens
- View this fun video with a reminder to keep preteen and teen vaccines on your radar
- Send an e-card about the vaccines that keep preteens and teens healthy
- Find answers with the HPV Vaccine Q&A
- Learn the Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine
- Find out more about the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program
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