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 hepatitis B, measles, German measles, and chickenpox. 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 haven’t been previously vaccinated against hepatitis B or chickenpox, for example, or if they’re fallen behind on some of their other immunizations.
Here are guidelines for specific vaccines for teenagers as established by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other medical organizations.
- 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 received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. If not, he should receive the second dose of this combination vaccine.
- 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.
- Chickenpox. This vaccine 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.
- 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.
- Meningococcal (MCV). Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) is recommended for children aged 11 to 12 years, with a booster dose given at age 16 years. Adolescents who received their first MCV dose at 13-15 years of age should receive a booster dose at age 16-18 years. One dose of MCV should be given to previously unvaccinated college students, especially freshman, living in dormitories. Any older teen who has never been vaccinated should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Pneumococcal. This 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 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.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV vaccine is recommended for children aged 11-12 years so that they are protected before exposure to the virus. There are two type of HPV vaccine (Cervarix and Gardasil) that are given as a 3-dose series. Girls should receive 3 doses of either vaccine to prevent HPV-related diseases. Boys should receive 3 doses of HPV4. 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 and young adults need all three shots for full protection.