Teen Immunizations – What Parents Should Know

Although August has come to an end, it’s not too late to recognize National Immunization Awareness Month – a great opportunity to get up to speed on your kids immunizations. Talk to your family doctor about what vaccines your kids need at their next checkup. And remember, vaccines are not just for your little ones. Your preteens and teens need to be vaccinated too! Vaccine protection from some childhood vaccines wears off, so your teen may need a booster shot. As they get older, they are more at risk for catching certain diseases so they need protection. In addition, the recommended immunization schedule is regularly updated to include new vaccines and has probably changed since your child was first immunized.

Dr. Jasjit Singh, pediatric infectious disease subspecialist at CHOC Children’s, provides us with helpful answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: What are the recommended vaccines for 2012 for preteens and teens?
A: The current recommendations for preteen and teen immunizations include:

Tdap vaccine – (Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine) This vaccine protects against diphtheria and pertussis, in addition to tetanus. Pertussis is particularly on the rise in teenagers, and protection wanes over time, leading to thie need for this booster shot. The Tdap vaccine is recommended for the 11- to 12-year-old checkup, and since last year, is required for all children entering grades 7-12 in California. This will not only protect your teen, it will help protect young infants who are too young to be vaccinated, from getting exposed.

Meningococcal vaccine – The meningococcal vaccine protects teens against some forms of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that kills approximately 10 to 15% of people who get it, even when treated. The first dose is recommended at age 11 or 12, followed by a booster (2nd shot) at age 16-18.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine – This vaccine protects against HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is indicated for all girls from the ages of 9 to 26 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for boys to protect against genital warts, and help prevent certain types of genital cancers. Teens will need three doses of this vaccine.

Influenza (flu) vaccine – This vaccine protects against different strains of seasonal influenza, which kills thousands of people in the US yearly.  A yearly dose is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

For a full schedule and more information, please click here:

Q: What are “catch-up” vaccines?
A: Catch-up vaccines are for those children who were not immunized, or fully immunized, on schedule.  It is important to get these children immunized appropriately as soon as possible so that they do not remain at risk from vaccine preventable diseases.

Q: Why are immunizations for teens so important? How do they prevent diseases?
A: Vaccinating your teenager is important to keep them as healthy as possible.  These vaccines will keep them from contracting diseases that may have immediate life-threatening consequences, such as meningitis, or from health problems down the road, such as genital cancers.  Vaccines work by giving us appropriate immunity to a disease, without having to experience the disease itself.  Immunization is one of the most successful measures we have to avoid the consequences of diseases that caused a huge toll on our children’s health in the past.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

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