Adolescent Immunizations

Most parents understand how important vaccines are during early childhood, but many do not know how important adolescent immunizations are in preventing infectious diseases. Teens can be an important bridge for diseases between the elderly and very young. Unfortunately, because teens are so healthy, many are not being seen for preventive care by their physicians and many physicians may forget to check their immunization records.

All adolescents should have their immunizations reviewed when they are 11 or 12 (or as soon as possible). Adolescents who have not received vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B (HBV), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and varicella (approximately 40%) should receive them. In addition, we know that the pertusis (whooping cough) vaccine is less effective after 5 – 10 years, so many teens should receive another dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertusis (Tdap) vaccine.

There are several new vaccines that every adolescent should receive, including one for meningitis (MCV4) and (for females) HPV (Gardasil). Meningococcal disease strikes most often in very young children and teens. It appears with flu-like symptoms but advances rapidly and can end in death or leave the victim with hearing loss and cognitive defects. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a sexually transmitted disease that can results in genital warts, cancers of the reproductive tract, and anal cancer.

Finally, I think adolescents should get a flu shot each year. Adolescents are more than three times more likely to get the flu than adults and more than half of the flu cases each year are in people under 19 years of age.

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