Three Vaccines Your Adolescent Probably Doesn't Have

By Landon Preece

Just as you urge your adolescents to wear helmets, buckle up, and eat healthily, up-to-date vaccinations also protect them from harm and prepare them for a successful and healthy future. It’s likely that your adolescent doesn’t have their recommended vaccines, and may need a quick update before entering Junior High.

Adolescent Immunizations
In addition to an annual flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all agree that 11-year-olds should be vaccinated for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Neisseria meningitides, as well tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

Did you know you could lower the lifetime risk of some types of cancer in your children? You bet! Gardasil is a vaccine used to cover four different types of Human papillomavirus (HPV). Surprising to some, it is for both boys and girls. It protects against diseases like cervical cancer in women as well as less frequent illnesses like genital warts, penile cancer, and anal cancer. About 14 million Americans (including teenagers) become infected with HPV each year. The optimal age for this vaccine is 11 years old and is most effective if you receive all three vaccines over a six month period. If you have missed a dose, just ask your provider how to catch up! Whether your adolescent is exposed to this virus or not, this vaccine is one way to provide them with protection now.

Neisseria meningitidis vaccine

The Neisseria meningitides bacterium is very dangerous and can cause meningitis — a swift and deadly infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The CDC estimates that upwards of 15 percent of those infected and treated can die, and another 20 percent of the survivors can be left with permanent brain damage. Future college and military recruits are at higher risk, as the U.S. has seen recent outbreaks across many college campuses. Future foreign travel on medical or religious missions will also increase exposure for your adolescent. Menactra is a vaccine that protects against this bacterium and is recommended for adolescents at the 11 years of age with a repeat booster about five years later. Since the release of this vaccine, there has been an astounding decrease in bacterial meningitis cases.

Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine

At the age of 11, adolescents should receive a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) booster and then every ten years throughout adulthood. Although they received this vaccine series as a child, their "immunity memory" slowly goes down and unlike most other vaccines, needs a booster. Tetanus is a type of bacteria found in the soil that infects the skin and can enter the nervous system causing muscle tightening and even failure to breath. Although not a common infection, it can kill upwards of one in five infected. Diphtheria is also a type of bacteria that infects the upper throat and can lead to severe damage to your vital organs. The pertussis infection is also known as "whooping cough" and can be severe enough for hospitalization or even death. Infants experience the most deaths caused by Pertussis, and research has sadly shown that they receive the infection from unvaccinated caregivers.

Contraindications

These three vaccines are recommended for almost all adolescents but there are certainly rare exceptions. A few examples include previous life threatening allergic reactions to vaccines, history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and current severe illness. If you have questions or feel like your child has had a reaction to a vaccine, contact your provider to have it officially reported as the medical field is constantly reviewing and modifying their recommendations to keep your adolescent as safe as possible.

Are These Vaccines Covered by My Insurance?

Many insurances cover vaccinations under their preventative care requirements, but it may be helpful to contact them first. These vaccines aren't cheap, and if they are not covered, ask your provider about the national program called "Vaccines for Children" sponsored by the CDC.