Many parents tend to think of vaccines as something needed for infants and young children but less important later in life. In fact, teenagers and young adults often get a number of vaccine-preventable diseases, including pertussis, measles, and meningitis. They need protection against infectious illnesses, as well.
Teenagers should continue to see their pediatricians or other physicians on a regular basis. All teens (or their parents) should keep an updated record of their immunizations. Many will need more
vaccinations as teenagers, particularly if they have fallen behind on some of their other immunizations.
Guidelines for specific vaccines for teens have been established by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other medical organizations.
Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) or
tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster: The Tdap vaccine should be given to children aged 11 to 12 years. It can be given at 13-18 years if not received at an earlier age. Pregnant adolescents not previously vaccinated with Tdap should receive one dose of Tdap during the second half of their pregnancy. Tdap can be given regardless of the time since receiving a previous Td-containing vaccine. The Td booster is used in persons who should not get pertussis vaccine. Booster doses of Td are recommended every 10 years for adults.
Meningococcal: The meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all preteens and teens at 11 to 12 years old, with a booster dose at 16 years old. Teens may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (2 or 3 doses depending on brand), preferably at 16 through 18 years old. Any older teen who has never been vaccinated should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Human papillomavirus (HPV): The HPV vaccine is recommended for children aged 11-12 years so that they are protected before exposure to the virus. The HPV vaccine is given as a 2-dose series before age 15. Both girls and boys should receive 2 doses of the vaccine to prevent HPV-related diseases. Teens 13 years and older who either did not get any or did not receive all of the HPV vaccines when they were younger should complete the vaccine series. Adolescents older than 15 at the start of the vaccination series and young adults need 3 HPV shots for full protection.
Influenza: All teenagers (and everyone else 6 months of age and older) should be vaccinated every year with influenza vaccine as soon as it becomes available in the community.
Hepatitis B: Most people who have a hepatitis B infection got the virus as teenagers or young adults. If teenagers have not been previously immunized with the 3-dose hepatitis B vaccine, they should be given this vaccination. Teenagers older than 18 years who have an increased risk for hepatitis B infection—perhaps because they are sexually active, live in the same household as a person infected with hepatitis B, or were exposed on the job—are candidates for hepatitis B immunization.
Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR): Check your teenager’s immunization records to be sure he or she received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. If not, he or she should receive the second dose of this combination vaccine.
Chickenpox: The chickenpox vaccine (also called varicella) should be given to teens that have never had chickenpox and have never received this immunization. If a teenager is 13 years or older, 2 doses given a month apart will be needed.
Pneumococcal: The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine should be given to teenagers who have a condition that makes them more likely to get pneumococcal disease and the problems associated with it.
Hepatitis A: The hepatitis A vaccine against hepatitis A infections is appropriate for teenagers who fall into any number of categories, including those who live in a community with a high rate of hepatitis A infections or are planning to travel to or attend school in a country or state with a high rate of hepatitis A infections.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: