As children and teenagers prepare to return to school, now is the time to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (health.gov) promotes August as National Immunization Awareness Month, and they suggest that one of the most important things parents can do for their children and teenagers is to get them vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule.
Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to disease outbreaks. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and sneezes and interacting in crowded environments. Without vaccines, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities – this can include infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems.
Parents should check with their child’s doctor, school or the local health department to learn about vaccine requirements in their area.
Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases:
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections (septicemia). Preteens and teens need two doses – the first when they are 11 or 12 and a second dose at age 16.
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. A series of two doses usually begins when your child is 11 or 12.
- Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis). The first dose is needed at age 11 or 12, with a booster every ten years.
- An annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu
There are two types of Meningococcal vaccines. Discuss with your healthcare provider whether your child needs one or both.
Dr. Samantha Lowe, Pediatrician at White Plains Hospital Medical & Wellness in Armonk answers parents' frequently asked questions regarding vaccines here.