Immunizations

Teens & Adolescent Youth Need Vaccines Too!

Photo: A group of young students.

Getting your children their pre-teen vaccines is one thing you can do to protect their health for years to come.

Vaccines are not just for infants. As kids get older, protection provided by some childhood vaccines can begin to wear off. Kids can also develop risks for more diseases as they enter their pre-teen years. Help your child move into adolescence in a healthy way by staying up-to-date on pre-teen vaccines.

Photo: Two young students

Which Vaccines Do Pre-teens Need?

Doctors recommend that all 11- and 12-year-olds get the Tdap and meningococcal vaccines, as well as an influenza (“flu”) shot. The Tdap and meningococcal vaccines are each given as single doses. Flu shots should be given each year. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series of 3 shots given over 6 months is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and is also available for boys.

Tdap vaccine

This vaccine prevents three diseases: tetanus (known in the past as “lockjaw”), diphtheria and pertussis (“whooping cough”). The shots that infants and young children receive protect against diseases including these three. But protection against these three diseases begins to wear off as kids get older. For pre-teens and members of other groups, the Tdap vaccine takes the place of what used to be referred to as the “tetanus booster” and has the added benefit of continuing protection against whooping cough, which is very contagious. Whooping cough can not only make pre-teens very sick, but it can be passed on to others, including infants, who can die from it. Pre-teens going to the doctor for a regular check-up at age 11 or 12 years should get a “booster” dose of Tdap.

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine

This vaccine protects against meningitis and blood stream infections. Meningococcal disease can become deadly in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment, people die in about 10% of cases. About 20% of survivors have a long-term disability such as deafness, brain damage, or an amputated arm or leg.

Photo: A girl with her healthcare professional.

HPV vaccine (also known as the “cervical cancer vaccine”)

HPV is a virus. This vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and genital warts. There are 2 vaccines licensed by the FDA; both prevent cervical cancer in females and one also prevents genital warts in males and females. Doctors recommend either HPV vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls. Doctors and parents may choose to vaccinate 11- and 12-year-old boys.

When Should Pre-teens Be Vaccinated?

Doctors and nurses can give pre-teens doses of all of these vaccines during their 11- or 12-year-old check-up. If your child did not get vaccinated at age 11 or 12, ask your child’s doctor about getting the vaccines now.  If you are not sure that your child was fully vaccinated with all recommended doses, you should also check with the doctor.

Photo: Family

Are These Vaccines Safe and Effective?

All of these vaccines are safe and effective. These vaccines are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and CDC.

Pre-teens might experience mild side effects, such as redness and soreness, where they get a shot (usually in the arm). Some people, including pre-teens and teens, might faint after getting a shot. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting. Most side effects are very minor especially compared with the serious diseases that these vaccines prevent.

Can I Get Help Paying for Vaccines?

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don’t have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help.

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native or have no health insurance. “Underinsured” children who have health insurance that does not cover vaccination can receive VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers. Parents of uninsured or underinsured children who receive vaccines at no cost through the VFC Program should check with their healthcare providers about possible administration fees that might apply. These fees help providers cover the costs that result from important services like storing the vaccines and paying staff members to give vaccines to patients. However, VFC vaccines cannot be denied to an eligible child if a family can’t afford the fee.

More Information

Content provided and maintained by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).