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Take your best shot

You can’t believe your baby is starting middle school. You’re ready. You’ve got all the school supplies and new shoes. You’ve even had him practice opening a combination lock, so that he’s ready on his first day.

But, is he up to date on his immunizations?

We often think that once children get their last vaccines at age 2 they are done, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Preteens, teens and even adults need periodic vaccinations to keep them healthy.

“A lot of people think of vaccines as something that are only important for babies and young children, but we want to make sure school- and college-age children are protected from illnesses as well,” said Erin Bailey, MD, pediatrician at Medical Group of the Carolinas – Pediatrics – North Grove. “The meningitis vaccine and HPV vaccine are especially important for college-age children.”

The CDC recommends that preteens receive the following vaccinations between the ages of 11 and 13:

  • Tdap vaccine, which protects against:
    • Tetanus, a bacteria found in dirt, dust and manure, that enters the body through a cut or sore in the skin.
    • Diphtheria, an extremely contagious bacterium that affects the respiratory system and is spread like the common cold when a person sneezes or coughs.
    • Pertussis, or whooping cough, which has initial symptoms similar to the common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and cough. However, the coughing worsens after one to two weeks, becoming violent and making it hard to breathe.

The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for preteens, teens and adults:

  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV virus affects most people in their teens and early twenties and causes certain kinds of cancers and other sexually transmitted disease.
  • MenACWY vaccine, which protects from meningococcal disease or meningitis. Meningococcal disease is severe, causing one in 10 people who contract the disease to die. Those who survive can become deaf, suffer from seizures and even lose their arms or legs. Meningococcal disease causes an infection of the brain and spinal column and is spread through coughing, kissing and sneezing. Symptoms come on suddenly and include fever, headache and a stiffness of the neck. Teens between the age of 16 and 18 years of age will need a Men ACWY booster to ensure lasting effectiveness.

Vaccines are an important part of children’s overall health and wellbeing even into their teenage years. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Adults should get the Tdap vaccine every ten years and everyone should get a flu vaccine annually.

The slower summertime schedule makes it an ideal to time talk to your child’s pediatrician or family medicine physician about what vaccines are right for them.

Don’t have a primary care provider? Find one here.