Get Your Teen Magazine in your inbox! Sign Up
Logo

Shots for Teenagers: What You Need to Know About Teen Vaccines

By Mary Helen Berg

Remember how many shots your infants needed? By the time our kids are teenagers, most parents think with relief that all those shots are over and done with. But are there shots for teenagers that your child needs to receive to be covered? About 90 percent of us think our teens are fully vaccinated, but we’re often wrong, according to a new University of Michigan study. In fact, less than half of teen boys complete the HPV (human papillomavirus) series, only 1/3 of teens receive the second dose of the meningitis vaccine, and most teens skip the flu shot altogether.

Shots for Teenagers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adolescents catch up on all childhood immunizations and receive additional vaccines for meningitis, HPV, diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis, and the flu.

Definitely make sure they have all of their college immunizations before they leave, advises Dr. Sarah Garwood, adolescent medicine specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Many colleges require the meningococcal vaccine and the tetanus vaccine to be up to date before entering school,” she says. “It’s not just that you’ve done the right thing.”

Vaccines for Teens

  • Flu. Get a shot or nasal spray vaccine each year, ideally before November. Your teen may still get sick, but the symptoms will be milder.
  • Meningococcal. Prevent bacterial meningitis, a dangerous and potentially deadly infection. Your teen needs two doses—one at 11 years old and a booster at 16.
  • HPV. Protect teens from human papillomavirus, which causes cervical, penile, anal, and some esophageal cancers. Your teen needs two shots before age 15, or three doses after 15.
  • Tdap booster. Tdap is the booster for the DTaP series of shots children receive beginning when they are infants. Teens need this to continue protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).

Mary Helen Berg

Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, Scary Mommy, and many other publications.