Summer is a good time to make sure your teenagers or preteens get their four recommended vaccinations

Vaccines aren’t just for babies. Preteens and teens also fall into an age group that has both required immunizations for school and recommended vaccines that can save their lives.

Summer is a great time to take care of getting caught up on these vaccinations, because many pre-teens and teens see their primary-care provider anyway for sport and camp physicals. Taking care of them in the summer also helps to miss the back-to-school rush that typically happens as August approaches.

Four vaccines are recommended for preteens and teens, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu vaccine is recommended yearly for teens, but three less familiar vaccines and boosters are also recommended. Also, it is recommended that during a vaccination visit, you make sure your child is up to date on all of the vaccinations they should have received when they were younger.

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The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and other medical societies recommend these vaccines:

Meningococcal vaccine: This vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that causes meningitis and sepsis, which are very serious and sometimes fatal. It is recommended at 11 or 12 years old and a booster shot is recommended at age 16. Even if your child got the meningococcal vaccine at 12, 14 or 15, the booster is recommended. Older teens who haven’t gotten this vaccine should get one as soon as possible.

HPV vaccine: This vaccine protects against the many cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, including cervical cancer in girls, and anal cancer and genital warts in both girls and boys. HPV vaccines are given in a three-dose series that should be started and finished when the boy or girl is 11 and 12. Pre-teens and teens who have not gotten this vaccine series should ask their primary care provider about getting them.

TDAP vaccine: This vaccine protects against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, which is commonly called whooping cough. Preteens should get Tdap at 11 or 12. If your teenager didn’t get a TDAP shot as a preteen, he or she should get it as soon as possible. This vaccine takes the place of what used to be called the tetanus booster.

Flu vaccine: Preteens and teens should get the flu vaccine every year as soon as it’s available, usually in the fall. It is especially important for preteens and teens with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot.

“The vaccines for preteens are very safe,” says the CDC. Side effects for these vaccines are usually mild and include redness and soreness at the site of the injection, or fainting from the medical procedure.

“Most side effects from vaccines are very minor, especially compared with the serious diseases that these vaccines prevent,” says the CDC.

If you don’t have insurance or if your plan does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program provides vaccines for children ages 18 and younger, who are not insured or are under-insured. Vaccinations are covered on all plans purchased through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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