Updated Aug. 12, 2021
Once your kids reach adolescence, you may think new vaccinations are a thing of the past. So you might be surprised to learn that throughout the teen years (and even into young adulthood) there are a number of vaccines for kids, as well as boosters, that doctors recommend. Here are the vaccinations you should ask your doctor about.
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Vaccinations for Teens and Young Adults
Children 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19 and its variants. It is the best way to reduce the risk of infection, severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
The vaccine is free and widely available. To schedule a vaccination appointment for your child with UPMC, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com.
The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer, as well as certain head and neck cancers, including throat cancer. HPV causes nearly 34,000 cancers in men and women annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vaccine can prevent most of them from developing. The CDC recommends that both girls and boys get their first dose between age 11 and 12, and the second dose six months later. If your child is older than 14, three doses are recommended.
This booster is one of the most important vaccines for kids. Your child should receive their first dose of the meningococcal vaccine between age 11 and 12. The second dose is recommended at age 16. College students living in dorms are particularly susceptible to meningitis, which spreads through coughing, sneezing, and kissing. The disease, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, causes death in one in every 10 people infected. Survivors often face long-lasting problems, such as deafness, developmental disabilities, strokes, and seizures.
Doctors give the Tdap vaccine, which stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis, to children between age 11 and 12. If your older teenager never received it, they should get the vaccine as soon as possible. All three diseases can be deadly, but vaccines have made diphtheria rare in the United States. Tetanus enters the body through puncture wounds. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a severe cough that can last for weeks. It can be fatal in young children; in older children and adults, it can lead to pneumonia and other complications.
The CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for babies between 12 and 23 months, and a second dose six months later. But if your older child didn’t have it as a baby, it’s best to get it as soon as possible. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. It’s rarely life-threatening in children but can be more serious when spread to elderly or ill relatives.
Annual flu shot
Teens should get an annual flu shot, says the CDC, ideally by the end of October. The flu changes from season to season, so it’s important to get new vaccinations annually. In other words, last year’s flu shot won’t protect you from this year’s flu.
If your older child plans to travel outside the United States, it’s important to know which vaccines are required in the country they plan to visit. Check with the CDC for current information on international travel and vaccines.
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Teens with Chronic Medical Conditions
If your teen has a chronic medical condition, such as an immunodeficiency, chronic lung disease, or diabetes mellitus, it is important to speak with their doctors about additional vaccines that may be recommended to protect their health.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.