Vaccination for Your Preteen
August is the time of year we begin to think of back-to-school activities: buying new school clothes and shoes, getting school supplies and backpacks and connecting with our pediatricians for back-to-school physicals. August is also National Immunization Awareness Month. It makes sense to choose August as the time of year to focus our attention on immunizations as we prepare for back to school.
Is your child up to date on his immunizations? Is your preteen? Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that 11- and 12-year-olds receive three preteen vaccines?
Why the Worry?
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, explains that "many parents do not realize that some childhood vaccines, such as those for tetanus and whooping cough, wear off over time and, as they get older, young people are at risk of exposure to different diseases at school, camp or in other new situations."
Experts at the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) have partnered to launch a new preteen vaccine campaign to educate and inform parents of these new recommendations. The campaign's launch coincides with National Immunization Awareness Month and is endorsed by the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Society for Adolescent Medicine.
An additional goal of this campaign is to increase parental awareness about the importance of having their 11- or 12-year-old seen for a checkup. "The preteen checkup is a great time to talk with your child's healthcare provider about your child's development, nutrition, safety and vaccination status," Dr. Schuchat says.
The three recommended vaccines include MCV4 (which protects against meningitis and its complications), Tdap (which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or "whooping cough") and for girls the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine (which protects against the most common types of cervical cancer).
- Meningitis: According to the CDC, "Meningococcal meningitis is a very serious infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It can cause death. Meningococcal bloodstream infection can cause loss of an arm or leg and even death. Preteens should receive a single shot of this vaccine during their 11- or 12-year-old checkup." If your teenager has missed the MCV4 vaccine, contact your pediatrician and schedule an appointment to get the vaccine.
- Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis: Pertussis or "whooping cough," as it is more commonly known, is extremely contagious. It is a respiratory tract infection that often results in prolonged coughing spells. According to the CDC, "If it is transmitted to infants, it may be life threatening. Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is an improvement to the old Td booster because it adds protection from whooping cough while still maintaining protection from tetanus and diphtheria." It is recommended that preteens receive a single shot of Tdap at their 11- or 12-year-old check.
- Human Papillomavirus: According to the CDC,
human papillomavirus or HPV is a common virus most often
seen in teens and individuals in their early 20s. HPV is the major cause of cervical
cancer in women. The vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most commonly
cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
The HPV vaccine has raised some controversy. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Many parents feel it is not appropriate to vaccinate their preteen for such a disease, especially when their preteen is not sexually active. The CDC holds the position that "girls should get three doses of this vaccine before their first sexual contact when they could be exposed to HPV. If your teenage daughter missed getting the vaccine when she was 11 or 12, ask her doctor about getting it now."
Be sure your preteen is up to date on the hepatitis B vaccine, as well as vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (these last three are traditionally "the most serious vaccine-preventable diseases," notes the CDC). Additionally, make sure your child has had vaccines for polio and varicella (chickenpox).
According to the National Partnership for Immunization, "Maintaining high immunization rates protects the entire community by interrupting the transmission of disease-causing bacteria or viruses. This reduces the risk that unimmunized people will be exposed to disease-causing agents. This type of protection is known as community or herd immunity and embodies the concept that protecting the majority with safe, effective vaccines also protects those who cannot be immunized for medical reasons."
For more information about the preteen vaccines check out the CDC, and then get out and get those immunizations!
Preparing for Shots
The California Coalition for Childhood Immunizations recommends the following tips to help preteens feel more at ease getting shots.
Encourage your preteen to:
- Bring along favorite music.
- Remember to breathe. Take slow, deep breaths.
- Make eye contact with you or another supportive person.
- Close the eyes and think of a favorite place or activity.
- Focus on something in the room, like a poster.
- Talk about a fun upcoming activity.