by Judi Leonard, MSN, CPNP
Many people believe that once children finish grade school vaccines are done, but children aged 11 to 12 also need protection against certain illnesses. Talk to your provider at your child’s next annual well check to see if vaccines are due.
The following vaccines are advised for the 11-12 year old pre-teens:
- Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis): This vaccine is required by California law to be given to all incoming 7th graders that have not received it yet. Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is currently spreading in the community and causes prolonged severe coughs which can last up to 3 months. In addition to the discomfort of a prolonged severe cough, this illness can cause apnea (not breathing), seizures, and can be life threatening to infants. Because it is spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and saliva, it is highly contagious to others. Parents and grandparents should also be protected to reduce spread to infants and younger children.
- Meningococcal Vaccine: Protects against a bacteria called Meningococcus that is also spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and saliva. Meningococcus can cause meningitis, an infection around the brain and spinal cord, as well as meningococcemia. One of 10 infected will die. Those who survive often have lifelong disabilities including loss of limbs, deafness and seizures. Two doses of the vaccine are needed for protection, one dose at 11 to 12 years of age and a second dose at 16 to 18 years of age.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine: Guards against a virus which causes several types of cancer which include cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar, and oropharyngeal cancers. Some strains of this virus also cause genital warts in exposed areas. This virus is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will be exposed to it at some point in their lives. Annually, about 19,000 women are diagnosed with HPV related cancers, 4,000 women will die from cervical cancer and 8,000 men are diagnosed with HPV related cancers. About 79 million Americans, most in their late teens to early 20s, are currently infected. 14 million new infections occur annually. HPV is spread by skin to skin contact. Pre-teen and teens should get all three doses before their first sexual contact to develop immunity. Pre-teens have a better immune response than older teens, so the vaccine works best in this age group but can be started anytime from age 9 through 26 years of age.
- Influenza: Everyone 6 months of age and older should be protected against the flu. The flu is a serious respiratory illness leading to severe infections and hospitalizations. The disease can be worse for people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease and neurological disorders. The vaccine can be given as a nasal spray for generally healthy people aged 2-49 years. Most other people can receive protection by a shot.
Other diseases which your teen or pre-teen should already be protected against include polio, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcus, chicken pox, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. We can help get them caught up if they are behind in any of these vaccines. With all vaccines, the more people in a community vaccinated the more effective the vaccines will work.
To find out more information about these diseases and vaccines, ask at your next annual physical or go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/vaccines. SOCPA now advises each pre-teen and teenager to have a yearly checkup starting at age 11.
Other measures to help your pre-teen stay healthy include not sharing foods and drinks, thorough and frequent hand washing, healthy eating, daily exercise and adequate rest.
Thank you for keeping your child and our community healthy.
The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.