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Protect teens, preteens with vaccines

By Shena Gerchman

Douglas County public health nurse

Taking them to their sports physical, making sure they eat healthy and get plenty of sleep … you know these are crucial to your adolescent’s health. But did you also you know your preteens and teens need vaccines to stay healthy and protect against serious diseases?

As they get older, preteens and teens are at increased risk for some infections. Plus the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines begins to wear off, so preteens need a booster dose.

You may have heard about whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks recently. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still around and very real. The vaccines for preteens and teens can help protect your kids, as well as their friends, community, and other family members.

There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens ages 11-12. Teens may also need a booster dose of one of the shots or get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:

* Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease, the leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults.

* HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause future cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth or throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.

* Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and this disease can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly for babies.

* Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children.

Talk with your child’s health care professional to find out which vaccines your preteens and teens need. Vaccines are a crucial step in keeping your kids healthy.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/teens or call 800-232-4636.

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