Have you scheduled a back-to-school doctor visit for your preteen or teen?
As kids get older, the protection from some of their childhood vaccines begins to wear off. There are also new diseases that teens can come in contact with in this stage of their lives. Keep your teens healthy with the meningococcal, HPV, Tdap, and influenza vaccines.
• Meningococcal Vaccine (MCV4, MenACWY): Meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the germs that can cause two serious infections. One of them is meningitis, which is swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The other is a life-threatening blood infection. Your teen needs meningococcal vaccine at 11 or 12 years old and again at 16 years old.
• HPV Vaccine: This shot is cancer prevention! Almost all people will be infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) at least once in their lives, and some forms of HPV can cause cancer at six different sites in the body, including the cervix and an area of the throat. There is no way to predict whether an HPV infection will be a type that may turn into cancer. HPV vaccines help protect against HPV infections and the cancers they cause. Teens need a series of three HPV shots. They can get these shots as early as age 9, but the shots are usually given with the other vaccines for teens at 11 or 12 years old.
• Tdap Vaccine: This vaccine protects against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough). Your teen should receive the Tdap vaccine at 11 or 12 years old.
• Influenza Vaccine: This vaccine protects against influenza (flu) and should be given every fall. The flu can cause health problems such as dehydration or lung infections.
When should my child be vaccinated?
A good time to get these vaccines is during a yearly checkup. Your teen can also get these vaccines at a physical exam required for sports, school, or camp. Even teens who missed these vaccines at 11 or 12 years can still get them at older ages. It’s a good idea to ask your health care provider at every visit if there are any vaccines your teen may need.
What else should I know about these vaccines?
All vaccines are studied in thousands of people before they are recommended to the public. Researchers check to be sure that less disease occurs in people who get a vaccine. They also make sure the vaccine doesn’t cause serious side effects. Vaccines can cause mild effects, like soreness or redness at the spot where the shot was given, and some people cannot receive certain vaccines because they have allergies to the ingredients. Occasionally, teens faint after getting any kind of shots. It’s a good idea to sit for 15 minutes afterwards.
How can I get help paying for these vaccines?
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides free or low-cost vaccines for some children and teens. Talk to your health care provider to find out if you’re eligible. Visit www.vax4teens.com for more information on keeping your teen healthy and happy.