Vaccinations for teens and pre-teens

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It’s that time of year again: back to school supplies, clothes, shoes, and don’t forget to update your children’s vaccinations.  Nobody likes a shot, but the pinch of a vaccination can prevent many missed school days and missed work for mom and dad as well.  Plus, it helps keep our community healthy, especially family members too young or sick to receive vaccines.  The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine every year, and this season’s flu shots should be available in the next few weeks.

Most parents are familiar with the vaccinations required when kids start school in kindergarten or pre-K, but many are not as familiar with the immunizations needed for pre-teens and early teenagers. The CDC recommends that children aged pre-teens and teens have an immunization update to help prevent developing and spreading the following serious diseases:

•Tdap vaccine:  The Tdap vaccine protects against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also called Whooping cough). The Tdap vaccine takes the place of what used to be called the tetanus booster. Preteens should get Tdap at age 11 or 12.  If your teen didn’t get a Tdap shot as a preteen, ask their doctor or nurse about getting the shot now.

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•Meningococcal vaccine: Meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause meningitis (swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord) and sepsis (an infection in the blood). Meningitis can be very serious, causing brain damage and death.  Preteens need the meningococcal shot when they are 11 or 12 years old and then a booster shot at age 16.

•Varicella vaccine: Varicella (chickenpox) is a highly contagious disease that is very uncomfortable and sometimes serious, even fatal.  The chickenpox vaccine is the best protection against chickenpox.  This vaccine is made from a weakened varicella virus that won’t give you chickenpox but will produce an immune response in your body that protects you against chickenpox. The chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995.  Since then, the vaccine has become widely used. Thanks to the chickenpox vaccine, the numbers of people who get chickenpox each year as well as hospitalizations and deaths from chickenpox have gone down dramatically in the United States.

•HPV vaccine:  The Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines help protect both girls and boys from cancers caused by HPV.  Girls and boys should start and finish the HPV vaccine series when they are 11 or 12 years old.  Teens and young adults through age 26 who have not received the HPV shots should ask their doctor or nurse about getting them now.

Local clinics are gearing up to make vaccinations convenient for you and your children with appointments, walk-ins, and specially scheduled after-hours vaccination sessions to help you keep your kids healthy this school year.

—Written by Dr. Micelle J. Haydel, Pearl River County Hospital and PrimeCare Family Health Clinic,  Poplarville, MS. and Dr. Angela C. Jones, The Hattiesburg Clinic;  Poplarville, MS.