Preteens and Teens: Ensure their Healthy Future with Vaccines

Posted on August 6th, 2015

Adapted from the National Public Health Information Coalition

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month!  This week, August 2-8, the focus is on vaccines for preteens and teens.  It can be easy to forget that adolescents need vaccines too, especially when they’re busy with activities and they have fewer visits to see their healthcare providers than babies and young children. But it’s important to be sure they are protected because they are at greater risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and the cancers caused by HPV infection.  Plus, the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines (such as the vaccine to protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria) begins to wear off, so preteens need a booster dose. Being vaccinated not only helps protect adolescents from getting these diseases; it also helps stop the spread of these diseases to others in their family, classroom and community. This is especially important to help protect babies too young to be fully vaccinated, people age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer, heart disease or other health conditions.

What Vaccines do Preteen and Teens Need?
There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12. Teens may also need a booster dose of one of the shots or get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:

  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults.
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause future cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth/throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
  • Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and this disease can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly for babies.
  • 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. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children.

Don’t delay – Talk with your child’s health care professional today to find out if your preteen or teen is up-to-date on vaccines! Want to learn more about the vaccines for preteens and teens? Check out the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for adolescent vaccines.

Spotlight on the HPV Vaccine

Recent data released by the CDC show that we still have a long way to go to protect preteens and teens from devastating cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).  In fact, an estimated 40% of girls and 60% of boys haven’t started the HPV vaccine series.  In Maine, HPV vaccination rates are only slightly higher than the national average.  We have a real opportunity to change this so that our children live healthier lives as they grow into adults.

HPV vaccine is cancer prevention!

Preteens need the HPV vaccine now to prevent HPV cancers later in life. HPV vaccine works best when it is given to boys and girls at age 11 or 12 years – before they are exposed to HPV.
There are more than 40 HPV types that infect humans. About 79 million, or 1 in 4, people in the U.S., most in their teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. About 14 million people become infected every year. Most people who become infected with HPV do not know they have it. Although most HPV infections will go away on their own, some HPV infections can lead to genital warts and life-threatening cancers such as:

  • Cervical cancer (cancer on a woman’s cervix)
  • A type of head and neck cancer called oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) in women and men
  • Anal cancer (cancer on the anus) in women and men
  • Vulvar and vaginal cancer (cancer on the vulva or vagina) in women
  • Penile cancer (cancer on the penis) in men

HPV vaccine protects against HPV infections that cause HPV cancers and disease. For teens who have not started the series at 11 or 12 years, it’s not too late! It is still beneficial to get the vaccine as soon as possible during the teen years.  If you have questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine, please talk with your preteen or teen’s doctor.  For more information, please visit

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