Age groups and vaccines — teenagers (13 to 20 years) | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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Age Groups and Vaccines — Teenagers (13 to 20 years)

Tdap, HPV and meningococcal vaccines

During the teenage years, the vaccines that may be required include a booster of tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), human papillomavirus (HPV) and a meningococcus vaccine.

Tdap vaccine

The Tdap vaccine is similar to the Td vaccine previously given every 10 years; however, the new vaccine also provides protection against pertussis or whooping cough. Immunity to pertussis fades allowing for a significant amount of disease in older children and adults. In turn, this group gives the illness to young infants who have not yet been protected by immunization and who are particularly susceptible to hospitalization and death from pertussis.

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is given in three shots. The second shot is given one or two months after the first, and the third shot is given six months after the first shot. The vaccine can be given to girls and young women from 9 years to 26 years of age. One of the HPV vaccines can be given to males from 9 to 26 years of age.

Meningococcal vaccine

Meningococcal vaccine is recommended as two doses. The first between 11 and 12 years and the second at 16 years of age.

Additional resources


Preparing for vaccines

By this age, your teen has received several vaccines, but it probably still doesn't feel entirely comfortable watching him or her get more. Most likely your teen has not had negative consequences before and that is likely to be the case again. If your teen has had a negative experience previously, be sure to discuss that event with the doctor before it is time for the next vaccine to be given. 

Remember that your teen will take the lead from you. If you are feeling comfortable that this is an important and necessary thing to do, so will your teen. Because some teens have a tendency to faint, it is recommended that they are seated or lying down during vaccine administration and remain at the office for about 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.

To prepare yourself

To prepare your teen

Remember, taking your children to get vaccines is an act of love. You are protecting them from something much worse than the pain of the vaccine.

After the vaccines

When you get home, realize that your teen may be more tired than usual. He or she may be sore where the shot was given. Try to be patient and understanding and provide comfort to your teen. You can also administer a pain reliever as directed by the doctor. If the area where the shot was given is red, tender or swollen, your teen can use a cool wet cloth on the area. If your teen has a fever, have him or her take a cool shower or bath. Give your teen plenty of fluids and be aware that he or she may be less interested in food over the next 24 hours.

Watch for signs of a reaction from the vaccine including a rash, prolonged fever, or unusual behaviors. If you have any reason for concern, call the doctor. He or she can tell you what to expect and what to do.

While most side effects are minor, if your child has a severe reaction, you or the doctor can file a report to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System or VAERS.


Keeping your college student healthy

In addition to making sure college students have the appropriate supplies and are prepared to be away from home, make sure they are prepared to take care of their health:

Recent graduates may also want to make an appointment with their healthcare providers to make sure they are up to date on all of the recommended vaccines. Students will be introduced to many new people, places, and experiences. Further, they may be coming into contact with people from countries where vaccine-preventable diseases are more common, or travel to other parts of the world to learn or perform services. Documented outbreaks of infectious diseases on college campuses have occurred following international travel.

Why college students need the meningococcal vaccine

While student health will likely require certain vaccines, some that are not required may still be of benefit. Consider the following regardless of whether or not they are required:

Remember that a recommendation means that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Family Physicians agree that a vaccine is needed for best health; however, individual states determine which vaccines are required and those decisions are often based on other factors. For example, only 37 states require meningococcal vaccine for college students even though freshmen living in dorms are particularly susceptible to this disease.

Be sure to discuss general health issues with your child as well. Many college students become run down, don't eat well, and don't fit regular exercise into their routine leaving them more susceptible to illness. 


Additional information from past issues of the Parents PACK newsletter

Vaccines before travel

Q. My son is traveling internationally this summer and I have been told he needs vaccines. Where can I get them?

A. Before any international travel, it is a good idea to get in touch with a travel clinic. Healthcare providers in these facilities specialize in health concerns related to travel and provide vaccines that may be needed. Learn more about preparing for travel and finding a travel clinic near you.


Updated: January 2013

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