Many parents feel that vaccines are for infants and young children; they fail to realize that their growing teens also need some specific vaccinations against some diseases that get to face as they grow older.
Although adolescent vaccinations have been advocated from as far back as 1996, the truth is that most teenagers are lagging behind in their vaccinations. It’s usually because the parents are unaware of the necessity or because older children tend to avoid hospitals and fail to come under the radar of their pediatricians who understand the need for certain vaccinations.
By virtue of their age, teenagers and adolescents are into high-risk behavior, trying out drugs and unsafe sexual practices, thereby making them likely victims for contracting various infectious diseases that include hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV). These are vaccine-preventable diseases that can bring much grief to the teenager. The HPV virus is known to be involved in cervical cancer in women of which, about 75% is preventable by the simple and timely HPV vaccination. This vaccine also protects against head, neck and throat cancers.
When vaccines are administered timely, they not only protect your child from disease, but also help on a local and global level by reducing the incidence of communicable diseases, and taking it one step closer to its eradication – just like what was done for smallpox. The vaccines required during the teen years vary according to the regions of the world and the infections prevalent in that region. However, with the world becoming a global village and people travelling almost everywhere, some schools of thoughts advocate that vaccines suitable for both temperate and tropical regions should be given. This is a safety-guard which you owe your child.
Aside from the vaccines needed during adolescence, any vaccines or their boosters that were missed out during childhood can also be administered. Some of the recommended vaccinations for teens include:
Tdap vaccine – This vaccine is recommended during the pre-teen and teen years against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. And for adults, boosters of the diphtheria and tetanus (Td) are recommended every 10 years.
Meningococcal vaccine – This is recommended for all pre-teens with booster doses at age 16. It’s specially recommended for teenagers who will be living in hostels.
HPV vaccine – The human papillomavirus vaccine is recommended during the pre-teens or early teenage years before they become exposed to the virus. At least two doses are required by both boys and girls to prevent HPV-related disease conditions.
Hepatitis B vaccine – For those who didn’t receive this vaccine when younger, the vaccine comes highly recommended for teenagers and young adults as they are prone to risky experimentations and exposure from contact with an infected person. It’s available as a conjugate of both hepatitis A and B viruses.
Polio vaccine – Usually a fourth dose is required to boost the effects of the vaccinations. Though polio hasn’t been seen in India for some time, vaccination is an extension of world eradication efforts.
Other vaccines to be considered include influenza, MMR, chickenpox, and the pneumococcal vaccine – and should be given as per needs of the region.