What Vaccines Do Teens Get?

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If you have a teenager at home, you are almost done with taking your child in for regular immunizations. Your child’s vaccination schedule changes as they age, and there are certain vaccines that are specifically recommended for teens and preteens.

These vaccinations can help to protect them from communicable diseases when they go off to college. In addition, some childhood vaccines lose their effectiveness over time and require boosters.

This article will describe the recommended vaccinations for teens and what to expect. 

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Meningococcal (MenACWY)

The Meningococcal (MenACWY) vaccine is a two-dose vaccine given at 11 or 12 years old and 16 years old. It protects against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease, an infection that causes swelling in the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It can also travel through the bloodstream.

Meningococcal disease is any disease caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. These diseases are very serious and can lead to death. Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Rash
  • Confusion

Possible complications include loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, brain damage, and death.

Teens and young adults are at an increased risk for meningococcal disease. It is spread through saliva from close contact like coughing, sneezing, kissing, and sharing cups or eating utensils. 

The MenACWY vaccine protects against four types (serogroups A, C, W, and Y) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. About half of people who receive this shot experience mild side effects like soreness and redness at the injection site and fever.

Meningococcal B (MenB)

The Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB) protects against the serogroup B of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. This vaccine is recommended for individuals 10 years and older who are at an increased risk of being exposed to serogroup B meningococcal disease. This includes anyone who:

  • Lives in a group setting where a meningococcal disease outbreak could occur
  • Has a damaged spleen or removed spleen (as well as people with sickle cell disease)
  • Is immunocompromised (individuals with a rare immune system disorder called complement component deficiency
  • Takes certain medications in the complement inhibitor class of drugs
  • Works in a lab where they could be exposed to Neisseria meningitidis

The MenB vaccine is usually given around age 16 to 23 years old, but is preferred by the age of 18.

More than half of people who receive this shot experience side effects like:

  • Soreness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Flu

The flu shot is an annual vaccine that protects against the virus influenza. It is recommended each year for children age 6 months and older. It is also available in a nasal spray. It reduces the risk of becoming sick and requiring hospitalization from the flu. 

The flu shot is recommended every year because the flu virus changes and mutates. The vaccine is changed each year to provide the best protection possible. The protection from this shot wears off over time, so an annual dose is recommended for most teens. Possible symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

This vaccine is usually well-tolerated. Possible side effects of the flu shot include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and soreness or redness at the injection site. 

HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, an infection that raises the risk of certain types of cancer. It is given in two doses at least 6 to 12 months apart. The number of HPV vaccine doses and timing depends on the age at which it is given.

HPV is a cancer-causing virus. This means that having the virus may lead to precancerous cells, which raises your risk of developing cancer. 

HPV is known to raise the risk for the following types of cancer:

HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s estimated that 85% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. 

While there are screening tests for cervical cancer, many other types of cancer associated with HPV infections do not have reliable screening tests. For this reason, these cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage when it is more difficult to treat and cure. 

The most common side effects of the HPV vaccine are mild and include pain and redness at the injection site, fever, nausea, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain. 

Vaccine Side Effects

It is possible for your teen to experience vaccine side effects such as a mild fever or pain and redness at the injection site. Adolescents are more likely to faint after vaccines than children. If your child is prone to fainting, it may be helpful to administer the vaccine while they lie down. If your child has ever experienced a life-threatening vaccine reaction, such as difficulty breathing, talk with your doctor about how to best protect them. 

Cost

The cost of each vaccine can vary greatly. For example, the MMR vaccine made by Merck can cost anywhere from $22.11 to $82.49. Fortunately, most vaccines are required to be covered by private insurance companies. If you have private insurance coverage, your child’s vaccines will be free of charge. Some companies specify that vaccines must be given at a pediatrician’s office or other approved facility. 

If you do not have private insurance coverage or are unable to afford the cost of your child’s vaccines, you are not alone. The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) provides free vaccines to those who need them. These vaccines are often offered at your local public health department. 

If Your Child Is Behind Schedule

If your child is currently behind on the standard immunization schedule, it is not too late to catch up. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider or pediatrician about an alternate vaccine schedule to help them catch up. This will be especially important to address before your child goes to college. 

Childhood vaccines can begin at any age, and boosters will be given according to the CDC’s catch-up immunization schedule. For example, if your child did not receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, they can receive three doses given over six months when they are older. 

It’s important to note that some states vary in their vaccine requirements for students. If your child is headed to college soon, check with the school’s admissions department about vaccine requirements. 

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

If you have questions about your child’s vaccine schedule, talk with your child’s healthcare provider. They know your child and will be able to listen to your concerns and offer health advice. If you or your child do not have a primary healthcare provider, consult your local health department with any vaccine questions or needs. 

Summary

Teenagers do not need as many vaccines as babies and toddlers but still have specific health needs that require vaccines. A standard immunization schedule for teens includes vaccines for meningococcal disease, HPV, and the flu. If your teen is behind on the recommended vaccine schedule, they can also receive their childhood vaccines as well. 

A Word From Verywell

Vaccines are a vital part of keeping your child healthy. They help to protect your child from serious illness and even death. For example, the HPV vaccine protects against viruses that can raise the risk of cancer. If you are uncertain about whether to vaccinate your teen, talk with your healthcare provider or pediatrician to gain more information. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much do vaccines cost?

    Vaccines should be available to you and your children for no cost. Most vaccines are required to be covered by all private insurance companies. The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) from the CDC provides free vaccines to children without private health insurance. 

  • Are vaccinations safe?

    Yes, most vaccinations are safe. If you have concerns about the safety of your child’s vaccines, sit down and talk with your child's healthcare provider or pediatrician to learn more. 

  • Who should not be vaccinated?

    There is a small percentage of teens who should not get vaccinated because of a serious underlying medical condition or a history of a severe reaction to a vaccine. Talk with your healthcare provider about your child’s individual needs and how to decide if and when to vaccinate.

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