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Your Preteens and Teens Need Vaccines Too!

Any visit to the doctor— from an annual health checkup to a physical for sports, camp, 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].

While your preteens and teens are thinking about all the fun things they'll be doing this summer, you're probably thinking about keeping them healthy and safe. When you're planning trips to get new swimsuits and sunscreen, make an appointment for vaccinations before the back-to-school rush begins at the doctor's office. Vaccines can help our kids stay healthy, and most states require certain vaccinations before school starts again in the fall.

There are four vaccines recommended for preteens and teens—these vaccines help protect your children, their friends, and their family members. While your kids should get a flu vaccine every year, the three other preteen vaccines should be given when kids are 11- 12 years old. Teens may also need a booster of a vaccine that requires more than one dose to be fully protected.

What Are the Vaccines for Preteens and Teens?

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
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines help protect both girls and boys from HPV infection and cancer caused by HPV. Two brands of HPV vaccine (Cervarix and Gardasil) protect girls from the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancer. One brand of HPV vaccine (Gardasil) also helps protect both girls and boys from anal cancer and genital warts. Both vaccines are available for girls. Only Gardasil is available for boys. Girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old should receive three doses of the vaccine over six months. Parents of preteens and teens who haven’t gotten all 3 HPV shots should ask their doctor or nurse about getting their child vaccinated now.
  • Photo: Four students with teacher in classroomMeningococcal conjugate vaccine
    Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) protects against some of the bacteria that can cause meningitis (swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord) and sepsis (an infection in the blood). Meningitis can be very serious, even fatal. Preteens need the MCV4 shot when they are 11 or 12 years old and then a booster shot at age 16. Teens who got the MCV4 shot when they were 13, 14, or 15 years old should still get a booster at 16 years. Older teens who haven't gotten any MCV4 shots should get one as soon as possible.
  • Tdap vaccine
    Tdap vaccine protects against 3 serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also called whooping cough). The Tdap vaccine takes the place of what used to be called the tetanus booster. Preteens should get Tdap at age 11 or 12. If your teen didn't get a Tdap shot as a preteen, ask their doctor or nurse about getting the shot now.
  • Flu vaccine
    Flu vaccine protects against flu and the other health problems flu can cause, like dehydration (loss of body fluids), making asthma or diabetes worse, or even pneumonia. Preteens and teens should get the flu vaccine every year as soon as it's available, usually in the fall. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy preteens and teens.

Photo: Four students with teacher in classroomThe vaccines for preteens and teens are very safe. Some kids might have some mild side effects from shots, such as redness and soreness in the arm. Some preteens and teens may 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.

Be sure to check with the doctor to make sure that your preteen or teen has received all of the vaccines recommended for them. They may need to "catch up" on vaccines they might have missed when they were younger.

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 for children ages 18 years and younger, who are not insured or who are underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native.

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Last syndicated: April 22, 2014
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