Did you know that while most infants and children get the vaccines they need, less than half of pre-teens and teens receive the vaccines specifically recommended for their age group? I didn't and I was startled by this fact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to raise awareness about the importance of pre-teen immunization and here's some useful information they provide for parents with children entering their pre-teen or teen years.
There are serious diseases that kids are at increased risk for as they approach the teen years such as meningitis, whooping cough, and human papillomavirus (also known as HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women);
- Meningococcal infections are very serious and can result in long-term disability or even death
- Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is not just a childhood disease—many teens are diagnosed with it each year
- Certain strains of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, can cause cervical pre-cancer and cancer—every year in the U.S., about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and nearly 4,000 women die from this disease
There are three vaccines recommended specifically for kids at ages 11 or 12 to protect them from these diseases:
- Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningitis and its complications
- Tdap vaccine, which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
- HPV vaccine, which protects girls and women against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer
In addition, pre-teens (and all kids 6 months and older!) should get the flu vaccine every year. Even healthy kids can get the flu and it can be serious.
Kids should also have a medical check-up during their pre-teen years so their doctors can make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations, recommend routine screening and discuss other ways to stay healthy.
For families with health insurance, all or most of the cost of vaccines is usually covered. For families without insurance, children age 18 and younger may be eligible to get the vaccines for free through the Vaccines for Children program (VFC).
There are a number of ways through which you can get the most up-to-date information about pre-teen immunization:
- Read this article: Why Do Pre-teens and Adolescents Need Immunizations?
- Watch this video on meningitis
- Put this badge on your site
- Send a “Health-e-Card” to spread the word about pre-teen vaccines
Disclosure: I am writing this post as part of a CDC blogger outreach program. I may receive a small thank you gift from the CDC for my participation in raising awareness about pre-teen immunizations.