Many parents associate back-to-school vaccines with children who are starting grade school. However, it is just as important to remember that as kids mature, they should have certain vaccines too.
According to Dr. David Hall, a double board-certified internal medicine and pediatrics doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, there are several reasons why preteens and teens need to be vaccinated. He explains that some vaccines that young children receive wear off over time and may no longer offer protection against serious diseases such as tetanus and whooping cough.
“As children get older, they have a greater risk of exposure to certain diseases, such as infection from Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause meningitis or septicemia, a blood stream infection,” says Dr. Hall. “It’s also important to note that vaccines against these illnesses not only protect your maturing child, but also the people around them, such as siblings, parents and grandparents.”
Dr. Hall recommends the following vaccines for teens and preteens:
One Tdap vaccine at age 11 or 12 to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Teens ages 13 to 18 who aren’t vaccinated should get advice from their doctor about receiving the vaccine right away.
A single dose of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine at age 11 or 12 to protect against infection from Neisseria meningitidis. Teens should get a booster shot when they are 16 years old to stay protected. Older teens who didn’t get the meningococcal shot at all should talk to their doctor about getting it as soon as possible.
A two-dose series of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine — beginning in the age range of 16 to 18 — protects against additional strains of Neisseria meningitidis not offered by the quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a meningococcal conjugate vaccine for first-year college students living in residence halls. If they received it before their 16th birthday, they need a booster dose for maximum protection before going to college. However, the vaccine is safe and effective and therefore doctors can give it to non-first-year college students.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at age 11 or 12 for both boys and girls to protect them even before being exposed to the virus. The vaccine guards against certain cancers and is given as a series of three injections over a six-month period.
All children should receive an annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal influenza.
Dr. Hall adds that catch-up vaccines are important for those who weren’t fully vaccinated as a child.
“These immunizations may include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); hepatitis B; polio; and varicella, also known as chickenpox,” he says.
Lastly, teens entering college should be current on all childhood, preteen and teen vaccinations.
This story was updated in September 2019 to include the recommendation for first-year college students living in residence halls.