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Taking them to their sports physical, making sure they eat healthy and get plenty of sleep…you know these are crucial to your child’s health. But did you also you know your preteens and teens need vaccines to stay healthy and protected against serious diseases?

As they get older, preteens and teens are at increased risk for some infections. Plus the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines begins to wear off, so preteens need an additional dose to “boost” immunity. You may have heard about whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks recently. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still around and very real. The vaccines for preteens and teens can help protect your kids, as well as their friends, community, and other family members.

There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12:

  • 4-valent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), which protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but serious disease that can cause infections of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and blood (bacteremia). Since protection decreases over time, it is important to also receive a booster dose at age 16 so teens continue to have protection during the ages when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease.
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes cancers in the back of the throat (including base of the tongue and tonsils), anal cancer and genital warts. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 32,500 cancers in men and women.  The 9-valent HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, has the potential to prevent 92% of HPV-attributable cancers! Every 11-12 year old boy and girl should get two doses of HPV vaccine for the best cancer protection.

Team Maureen, a cervical cancer advocacy organization, in conjunction with Cape Cod Health Care, the Falmouth Hospital Cancer Committee, and Brian Switzer, released this video discussing the importance of getting the HPV vaccine at 11-12 years old.

  • Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Tetanus and diphtheria are uncommon now because of vaccines, but they can be very serious. Whooping cough is common and on the rise in the United States. In 2016, more than 15,000 cases were provisionally reported in the United States. It can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks, but it is most dangerous — and sometimes even deadly — for babies who can catch it from family members, including older siblings.
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. The severity of the 2017-2018 season reminds us that for the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually. In the 2017-2018 flu season, 172 children died because of flu. Approximately 80% of them did not receive a flu vaccine this season. Half of the children who died from flu did not have a medical condition that placed them at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children from the flu. You can read personal stories of families affected by flu by visiting Families Fighting Flu.

Teens and young adults (16 through 23-year-olds) may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine, preferably at 16 through 18 years old, to provide short term protection for most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines are only routinely recommended for people 10 and older who are at increased risk, either because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak or certain medical conditions. Talk to your child’s doctor to find out if meningococcal B vaccine is right for them.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are still around and very real. The vaccines for preteens and teens can help protect your kids, as well as their friends, community, and other family members.  You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. Talk with your child’s healthcare professional to find out which vaccines your preteens and teens need. Vaccines are a crucial step in keeping your kids healthy.

Written By:


Immunization Outreach Coordinator in the Bureau of Infectious Disease

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