May 06, 2015 Healthy Living

Don’t Wait! Vaccinate!

If you’re a parent, you probably remember the heartache of taking your infant to the pediatrician for what seemed like dozens of vaccinations and trying to comfort him/her throughout the ordeal. As your child got older, the number of vaccines recommended by the doctor started to decline. Now that your child is entering his/her teen years, it’s still important to stay on top of your child’s health. Make sure you talk to his/her pediatrician about recommended vaccines for pre-teens and teens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four vaccines for adolescents, including Tdap, meningococcal, HPV, and flu. Read on to learn what these vaccines help prevent and why it’s important to immunize your children.


Children younger than seven are administered the DTaP vaccine to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). As they get older, the vaccine wears off. The Tdap, which is the booster version of the vaccine, contains a reduced dose of the diphtheria and pertussis vaccines, is recommended for adolescents starting at age 11 and adults ages 19 to 64. It’s considered a booster immunization because it increases the immunity that diminishes from vaccines given between ages four and six. Medical professionals recommend that everyone receive a booster shot every 10 years after first being immunized.

Meningococcal vaccine

Meningococcal disease is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, an infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Anyone can get meningitis, but it’s most common in infants younger than 1 and young adults between the ages of 16 and 21. College students living in dorms and kids attending sleep-away camps are at increased risk.

Two types of meningococcal vaccines help protect against types A, C, Y, and W-135:

  • Meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) – the preferred vaccine for people younger than 55
  • Meningococcal polysaccharide (MPSV4) – the preferred vaccine for people older than 55

Two doses of MCV4 are recommended for adolescents ages 11 to 18. The first dose should be given between 11 and 12 years, and the second should be given at age 16.

HPV vaccine

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. In fact, the CDC says that nearly all sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV will go away on its own. However, some types can cause health problems like genital warts or even cancer.

The good news is that HPV is avoidable through vaccination. The HPV vaccine protects both men and women and is given in three shots over six months. All three doses are recommended for males and females between the ages of 11 and 12. A catch-up plan is available for children older than 12 who have not yet received the series.

Flu vaccine

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that causes coughing, runny nose, body aches, fatigue, and fever. While most pre-teens and teens who get sick with the flu recover in a couple of weeks, some suffer from complications like sinus infections and pneumonia. According to the CDC, thousands of Americans die each year from flu-related complications.

Flu vaccines are recommended every year for children six months and older. Medical professionals suggest vaccinating your children before the flu season officially begins in October. The vaccine can be given to preteens and teens via the flu shot, which is injected into the arm. Preteens and teens with chronic health conditions should consult with their physicians about which type of flu vaccine is best for them.

Vaccines work

As parents, we want the best for our kids. Although we cannot guarantee that they’ll be accepted into an Ivy League school, we can do our best to safeguard them from the preventable. While none of the aforementioned vaccines is mandatory, science has proven that they do work and are most effective when more people receive them.

Check out our Preventive Guidelines for a detailed listing of recommended vaccinations, as well as health screenings, for all members of your family. For additional information on which immunizations your children need and when, review this comprehensive chart from the New York State Department of Health. And, the next time you’re at the doctor’s office, don’t forget to ask about your own annual vaccines.

Photo by Dimattia Photography / CC BY

Brian Sheridan, MD
About the Author

Brian Sheridan, MD, joined CDPHP in April 2014 as a medical director, assisting in the utilization management of programs that offer premium health care at an affordable price. Prior to working at CDPHP, Dr. Sheridan’s experience includes his work in clinical practice as a pediatrician at Schoolhouse Road Pediatrics. Dr. Sheridan is an executive board member for the Guilderland YMCA and is the president of the Bus Stop Club, an organization dedicated to the siblings of children with chronic illness. Dr. Sheridan is a medical graduate from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and completed his residency in pediatrics at Albany Medical Center Hospital. He holds board certification in General Pediatrics. He earned his Bachelor of Science in psychology/biology from Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY.

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