Which Vaccines Does Your Teen Need?
Quick! What comes to mind when you think about kids and vaccines? If you said babies and toddlers, you're only half right (or maybe that's two-thirds right). In fact, although your teenager may be too old for a lollipop, there are still some shots that they should be getting in adolescence.
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Give Your Kids a Boost campaign was designed to make parents realize that vaccine awareness doesn't stop after those kindergarten boosters.
"Parents are quite good about getting vaccines for children prior to starting school," says Amy Garcia, executive director of NASN. "What we've learned in the past few years is that some of the protections of those vaccines wear off and boosters are needed around middle school age. There are also new vaccines to protect children from other diseases."
According to the most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all adolescents should receive the following vaccinations:
- Tdap vaccine to prevent the disease pertussis, or whooping cough
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) to protect against meningococcal disease, which is a very serious infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord
- HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the major cause of cervical cancer in women
- Varicella vaccine to prevent chickenpox (varicella), including a booster for children who were vaccinated against chickenpox as babies
In addition to those new guidelines, the CDC recommends that parents check with their teen's doctor to be sure he or she has been vaccinated against the diseases listed below. If not, the teen needs to catch up on vaccines. Because of different requirements in different states, children may not always have the full protection available to them.
- Hepatitis B: Can cause lifelong infection, liver damage, liver failure, cancer and death
- Measles, Mumps, and Rubella: These once-common diseases of childhood have serious side effects, including deafness, sterility, blindness and death.
- Polio: Can result in paralysis and death. Polio is very close to being eradicated, but because of suspicions and superstitions toward vaccines in some pockets of the world, it still exists. Because it still exists and we have a global citizenry, all children should be vaccinated to prevent a comeback.
Garcia has noted a growing trend of suspicion toward vaccines, and it concerns her that children are going unprotected because of their parents' unfounded fears. "Much of America has forgotten what these diseases look like and how devastating they can be," she says. "We are so fortunate to have access to these vaccines, and the reason we stage these awareness campaigns is because we'll do anything we can do to help parents understand how important it is to vaccinate their children."
Barbara Campbell of Edgewood, Pa., recently made the decision to have her daughter receive the HPV vaccine. While she was doing the research she was shocked and puzzled by the controversy surrounding the vaccine. "Even before the vaccine was on the market I was interested in the opportunity to protect my child from cancer," Campbell says. "I did a lot more research than I usually do because there was such controversy, and discovered that most of the objections were driven by the sexual angle. In fact, my research showed that there was solid science behind this vaccine and that the most respected people in the medical world recommended it. My decision was ultimately based upon my desire to protect my child."