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

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 safe and healthy?

Is your teen ready to go to the doctor by themselves?

About 90 percent of us think our teens are fully vaccinated, but we’re often wrong, according to a 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.

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.

Parent should 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 Teens Need:

1. 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.

2. Meningococcal

This vaccine prevents bacterial meningitis, a dangerous and potentially deadly infection. Your teen needs two doses—one at 11 years old and a booster at 16.

3. HPV

This vaccine protects 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.

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

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