Although people usually think vaccines are just for younger children, teenagers are at risk for several vaccine-preventable diseases, too. Unfortunately, millions of teens are not protected against some of these potentially deadly diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends several vaccines for teens to help protect them from:
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Influenza (flu)
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)
Meningococcal meningitis vaccine
The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis can be transmitted through saliva from someone who is infected. Teens typically engage in certain lifestyle behaviors (eg, kissing) that may put them at increased risk. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends 2 doses of the MenACWY vaccine for adolescents 11 through 18 years of age.
- The first dose should be given at 11 or 12 years of age, followed by a booster at age 16.
- If the first dose is given at 13 through 15 years of age, the booster should be given at 16 through 18 years of age.
Meningococcal B vaccine is also recommended for people 16 through 23 years of age. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 through 18 years of age.
HPV vaccine series
Two doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for most persons starting the series before their 15th birthday to help protect against HPV. Teens and young adults who start the HPV series at 15 through 26 years of age are recommended to receive 3 doses. This vaccine helps protect against HPV types that cause most cervical cancers and precancers in girls and young women. It also helps protect against HPV types that can cause genital warts and genital cancers in women and men.
While most people recover from the flu within a few days or less than 2 weeks, for some it can lead to pneumonia and sinus and ear infections. Teens with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or chronic lung disease, are at higher risk for flu-related complications.
Teens can spread flu from 1 day before they have symptoms to up to 7 days after they get sick.
Young children are given the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) vaccine. This vaccine helps protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis). The DTaP vaccine protection wears off as children get older. Preteens need a booster known as Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine, which also helps protect against those 3 same diseases. The ACIP recommends a single dose of Tdap vaccine for adolescents.
If your teen hasn’t received the Tdap vaccine—or if you’re unsure—ask your doctor about getting it now.
For more information on teen vaccines, talk with your doctor.