Vaccinate Your Teen Today to Protect Them Tomorrow

As parents, we can all recall a time when someone has said to us, “They grow up so fast,” or “The days are long, but the years fly by.” For parents of teenagers, it probably seems like just yesterday your child was on the couch watching cartoons and drinking out of a sippy cup.

Now, you have a teenager who still sits on the couch but now occupies their time with social media or video games. Your teenager is counting down the days to getting their license, graduating high school and reaching adulthood, which comes with freedom and endless opportunities.

Adulthood will be here before you know it. You can’t prepare your teen for everything life will throw at them, but there are some things you can do today to prepare them for tomorrow – like getting them vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines aren’t just for young children. In fact, adolescent vaccines are incredibly important. They protect teens against serious illnesses they may encounter in college and beyond, such as meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus. One of the best and easiest ways to prepare your teen for the future is to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines. Some adolescent vaccines are recommended just for teenagers, and others are boosters of vaccines that your child received previously.

So, which vaccines do they need? Why do they need them? When do they need them?

We’ve compiled a list of all the vaccines that your teenager needs to help you out.

*Depending on where your child goes to school and what their plans are after high school, some of these vaccinations may be required, some may be highly recommended, and some may not be applicable. In North Dakota, there are vaccination requirements for 7th grade and 11th grade entry. Universities also have immunization requirements for students.


Tdap

Protects against: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)
Doses: One dose at age 11 or 12 with a booster dose every ten years after that
Who needs it: Everyone
Why we need it: Protection against tetanus and pertussis wanes over time, and boosters can help maintain protection against these diseases.


Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY, MCV4)

Protects against: four strains of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease (N. meningitidis serotypes ACWY)
Doses: One dose at age 11 or 12, one dose at age 16
Who needs it: Everyone
Why we need it: Teens and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, which can be very serious and lead to loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, brain damage and even death.


Meningococcal B (MenB)

Protects against: one strain of the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease (N. meningitidis serotype B)
Doses: Two doses starting at age 16
Who needs it: MenB vaccine is not routinely recommended for all adolescents by the CDC. Talk to your doctor about why MenB vaccine may be right for your child. Certain individuals are more likely to be exposed to this disease, such as those living in congregate/group settings (ex. college students).
Why we need it: Although meningococcal disease is rare, teens and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, which can be very serious. Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis, bloodstream infections and even death.


Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Protects against: many types of cancer (cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, head and neck cancers) and genital warts
Doses: Two doses given six months apart, HPV vaccination is routinely given at age 11 or 12 but can be started at age 9
Who needs it:  Everyone
Why we need it: 85 percent of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. While we have no way to predict which infections will lead to cancer, the best way to protect your teen against HPV is to vaccinate.


Influenza – ‘Flu shot’

Protects against: seasonal influenza (flu)
Doses: One dose annually, preferably administered in the fall
Who needs it: Everyone
Why we need it: Vaccination reduces the risk of serious illness and death from influenza. Being vaccinated against influenza has also been shown to reduce flu illnesses, visits to the doctor and missed school days.


COVID-19

Protects against: severe disease from the virus that causes COVID-19.
Doses: Vaccine recommendations are updated regularly. Consult the CDC website for the latest recommendations.
Who needs it: Everyone five years and older
Why we need it: The virus that causes COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all our lives since 2020. Being vaccinated helps prevent severe COVID-19, but it can also help reduce infections and transmission of the virus.

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