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Immunizations for Adolescents

April 4th – 8th is Adolescent Immunization Action Week (AIAW)

Adolescent Immunization Action Week (AIAW) is a call to action urging parents and healthcare providers to get adolescents up to date on recommended immunizations. A lot of things got put on hold during the pandemic, including adolescent well visits and immunizations.

Adolescent vaccines will protect your child from diseases including meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, and HPV-related cancers. These immunizations are timed to start protecting adolescents before they are likely to be exposed to serious, potentially life-threatening diseases, so it’s important to get up to date as soon as possible. Make a call during AIAW to schedule a well visit with their pediatrician and ask what vaccines they need to be up to date.

Recommended Immunization Schedule for Preteens and Teens

Young people age 9 to 18 years need a number of vaccines to help prevent major health problems, including infertility, muscle paralysis, brain damage, blindness, and cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical groups all agree on the schedule of immunizations. They recommend these vaccines at the age when they work the best with your child or teen's immune system, and at the time when your child or teen needs the protection the most.

Because of the pandemic, many youth have fallen behind on their immunizations. Call your pediatrician to make sure they are up to date and fully protected. Here is a summary of the recommended vaccines for preteens and teens, and the diseases they prevent:

  • Meningococcal Vaccine: At age 11 or 12, your teen should get their first meningococcal vaccine.
  • Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis): At age 11 or 12, teens will receive a Tdap vaccine to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). It's a slightly different version of a vaccine your child received as a baby (DTaP).
  • HPV Vaccine (Human papillomavirus): The HPV vaccine protects both males and females against strains of the virus that cause more than 90% cervical, penile, anal, mouth and throat cancers, as well as genital warts. The vaccine works better with a child's immune system at age 9-12, so they need just 2 doses. If they don't get the first dose until age 15, they need 3 shots.
  • Influenza (flu): The AAP and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older, including teens, every year.
  • COVID-19: The COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect teens from long-term problems if they get sick with COVID.

This is also the time for your child to catch up on other recommended immunizations that they may have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, pneumococcal vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. Is your child heading off to college? Some colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated. Check these requirements now, so your teen can be caught up before college starts.

School Entry Immunizations for Preteens and Teens

Your adolescent's immunization records are checked at the following times:

Certain exemptions to North Carolina’s Immunization Law are allowed.

Additional Resources:



Updated: March 25, 2022