Vaccinations are a cornerstone in prevention and public health. Ongoing research continues to maximize the role of vaccines in protecting individuals and populations at large from previously common illnesses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released its 2012 update on vaccinations. Review of the evidence from recent vaccine studies has led to two important adjustments to the vaccine schedule that may impact your teen.
1. Boys should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine too. The HPV vaccine was initially targeted at girls for the protection of cervical cancer and genital warts. However, since HPV is transmitted through sexual activity, vaccinating boys too provides greater impact on a public health level. Also, studies show that vaccination can reduce the risk of HPV-related cancers in men, such as penile cancer, anal cancer, as well as some head and neck cancers. The vaccine is given as a series of three shots over the course of 6 months. The first dose is commonly given at 11 or 12 years old. The goal is to have all teenagers vaccinated prior to becoming sexually active.
2. Teenagers need a booster for the meningococcal (MCV) vaccine. The MCV vaccine protects against a bacteria that causes a life-threatening meningitis. Children receive the MCV vaccine at 11 years old and up. A booster is now recommended because immunity has been shown to wane over time. By receiving the booster, immunity is improved for subsequent years when many teenagers and young adults may live in close proximity (college dorms, for example).
Vaccines aren’t just for little kids. Dig up your teen’s vaccine record. Get them in for a well child exam to review their health, development, and immunization status. It’s also not too late to get the annual flu vaccine.