Minnesota health officials remind parents to make sure adolescents are up to date on their immunizations as they head back to school. Adolescents need certain vaccines because some of the vaccines they received in childhood wear off, and they are exposed to new diseases as they get older.
Adolescents should get four vaccines: Tdap, HPV, meningococcal and flu.
- Tdap vaccine is recommended at 11-12 years of age to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Children get vaccinated against these diseases as babies, but that protection decreases over time, so this helps boost protection.
- HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, the virus that can cause cervical cancer and has also been linked to cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and throat. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots starting at 11-12 years of age.
- Meningococcal vaccine is important for adolescents because they are at higher risk. They should get the four-component meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) that protects against the A, C, W and Y strains at 11-12 years of age and a booster dose at 16 years old.
Parents and teens can talk to their provider about an additional meningococcal vaccine called MenB that protects against the B strain of invasive meningococcal disease. This vaccine is not routinely recommended, but can be given on a case-by-case basis. It should be given at 16-18 years of age, so it can be given when the teen comes in for their MenACWY booster.
- Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older each year.
Health officials said any visit to the doctor can be used to get vaccinated, including check-ups, sports physicals or injury, or minor illness visits. All four of the recommended vaccines can be given in the same office visit.
“We’re reminding parents to talk to their child’s healthcare provider about all of these vaccines because we want their preteens and teens to be protected from these potentially serious diseases,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “We are excited to see high immunization rates for Tdap and meningococcal, but rates for HPV and flu are lower than we’d like even though they are just as important.”
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data from the National Immunization Survey-Flu and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System estimate that 65.9 percent of Minnesota children (ages five-12) and 48.6 percent of Minnesota teens (ages 13-17) got a flu vaccination in the 2014-15 season. Final results for the 2015-16 season are not yet available.
Flu causes significant illness every year. Getting a flu vaccine helps keep adolescents healthy so they can stay in school and participate in other activities.
CDC estimates that more than 38,000 HPV-related cancers occur in the U.S. each year. Studies have shown that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing HPV infection. The vaccine is recommended at a younger age because a child needs three doses to be fully protected well before possible infection; a bonus is the fact that the body’s immune response is better at that time.
“Fewer than half of girls and one in four boys are getting the HPV vaccine, a series of shots that can prevent multiple cancers from developing later in life,” said Matt Flory, State Health Systems Manager at the American Cancer Society of Minnesota.
Ehresmann noted that while it is convenient, teens probably won’t like the idea of getting a few shots at the same time. There are a few things you and your teen can do to make things go more smoothly. Remind them to:
- Bring along their favorite music and headphones.
- Breathe! Take slow, deep breaths.
- Make eye contact with you or another supportive person.
- Close their eyes and think of a favorite place or activity.
- Focus on something in the room, like a poster.
Parents can learn more about the vaccines their preteens and teens need at MDH’s adolescent immunization website: vax4teens.com.
Information provided by the Minnesota Health Department.