Flu or allergy shot. This image is available exclusively on Istock.I have a 6 month old and it feels like she is getting immunizations every time we go see our pediatrician. I sent pictures of the band-aids on her thighs to her grandparents and labeled them ‘badges of courage.’ I know this routine of vaccinations at every visit will slow down as she gets older, but will our pediatrician still recommend immunizations as she reaches the teen years?  The answer is yes.

There are 4 vaccines that are recommended during the teen years for children who are up to date on other immunizations. These include Tdap, MCV, HPV, and influenza. In this post I’ll focus on these vaccines and not the full schedule that is recommended for children. While immunizations are recommended, the choice to immunize is one that each family has to make on its own because there are risks and benefits to every decision.  In this post I’ll talk about what the vaccines are and which diseases they protect against.

Tdap:

This is the immunization that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus (also known as ‘lockjaw’) is a serious disease that causes muscle tightening all over the body and causes death in 1 out of 10 cases. Diphtheria  To see our posts on whooping cough and recent outbreaks click here. It is recommended for teens ages 13 to 18 and again every 10 years as adults. Vaccination rates for this immunization are meeting national goals for the first time. About 80% of teens in the US received it in 2011.

MCV:

The meningococcal vaccine (MCV 4) protects against bacteria that can lead to meningitis, a potentially deadly infection of the lining of the brain. Teens and young adults up to age 21 are the most common group of people who get meningococcal infection. If your teen is going to stay in close quarters with other young people (such as in a dormitory or in military barracks) they should definitely consider getting this vaccine. The bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause a bloodstream infection. These infections can lead to hearing loss, brain damage, learning disabilities, and even death.  The Centers for Disease Control has a great video about this infection and the vaccine.  The MCV 4 vaccine is recommended for all preteens with a booster recommended at age 16 years. If a teen receives the vaccine when they’re older, a booster is still recommended.

HPV:

Human Papilloma Virus is a very common virus that can lead to genital warts and cervical, anal, and oral cancers. My co-author posted a blog on the HPV vaccine being approved for boys a few months ago and we covered the HPV infection in our series on sexually transmitted infections so I won’t cover it in detail . The HPV vaccine protects against the 4 types of human papilloma virus that are most likely to cause cancers or warts, but there are over 40 types of HPV. This vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12, but can be received up to age 26 years. It’s given in a series of 3 different doses.

Influenza:

It is recommended that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine every year. This can be given via injection or through a nasal mist (but only if you’re ages 2-49 years). For preteens and teens, the flu vaccine is recommended in the Fall, though outbreaks may start in the winter. Though people often say they have ‘the flu’ when they have cold symptoms, the true flu infection can be deadly. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, congestion, headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea. People with Asthma, diabetes, or other chronic illness should receive the vaccine and the people who live with them and care for them should also be immunized. If your teen has an allergy to eggs or has had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, they should avoid the vaccine, but it’s still recommended that others in their household get the flu shot.

For more information on these vaccines and others, check out the CDC’s information on vaccines for teens.