Back to school is a great time of the year to make sure you are up to date on your child’s health. Some parents think well child checks and vaccines are just for their younger children, but pre-teens and teens can also benefit from immunizations to keep them healthy. All adolescents should get a regular flu vaccination, but there are three other shots that kids between the ages of 11-12 should get that can keep them safe and well.
Meningococcal vaccine: These vaccines protect against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. This bacteria can cause an infection in the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a bloodstream infection. This infection is rare, but teens and young adults are at a higher risk. The infection can be very serious and sometimes deadly. Meningococcal vaccines are the best way to protect teens and pre-teens from getting the disease.
At age 11-12, children should get the first dose of the meningococcal vaccine that protects against four types of meningitis bacteria (A, C, W, and Y). A second dose is given when they are 16 years old. Teens can also get a meningococcal group B vaccine, usually at ages 16-18, which can protect against another type of the bacteria.
HPV: This vaccine protects against HPV, or the human papillomavirus. HPV is a common virus that infects around 14 million people a year. HPV can be dangerous because the virus can lead to certain types of cancer. Vaccinating teens and pre teens can help prevent this.
At age 11-12, children should get two doses of the vaccine, 6-12 months apart. If you start the vaccine after 15 years old, they should get 3 shots over 6 months.
Tdap: This vaccine protects against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). These vaccines are included in the shots children get when they are younger, but another vaccine is recommended at ages 11-12 years old. After that a booster is recommended every 10 years.
Some people can experience side effects from vaccines, the most common are redness or soreness where the shot was given, fatigue, fever, or headache. Side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. All vaccines given in the United States have been studied extensively and are proven to be safe and effective. If you have any questions about vaccines, you can make an appointment with your primary care doctor to learn more. You can also visit the CDC website here.
To schedule an appointment with the Family Medicine Clinic please call 504.962.6363.
Dr. Cozad is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Family Medicine at the LSU School of Medicine and a physician in the Family Medicine Clinic at University Medical Center. A New Orleans native, she earned her medical degree from LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.