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Teens and Vaccines: Shots Are All About Saving Lives

Vaccinations are shots that impact the world, because they save lives globally. They protect your child against serious and often deadly diseases, and protect everybody else with whom your child comes in contact.

Vaccines introduce to the body what experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call “imitation” infections:  particles that resemble proteins of an infection and fool the immune system into creating natural a defense without actually causing or exposing anyone to the disease. Vaccines leave the body with antibodies that can later recognize and fight off actual diseases should a person be exposed to them.

Thanks to the success of vaccination programs in the United States, few Americans today have experienced such devastating disorders as diphtheria and meningitis, which used to kill thousands of children – and adults. Some parents have questioned the safety of vaccines. However, a 2013 report from the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine indicates that “available scientific evidence” shows vaccines to be “among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death.”

Know Your Child’s Vaccination History

Now that it is back-to-school time, check your child’s records to determine what additional immunizations may be needed.  No federal school-immunization law is in place; rather, each state manages its own required vaccination guidelines. Vaccination schedules are based on recommendations of the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices of the CDC.

New York State mandates every student — public, private or parochial — be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and varicella. Students attending grades 7-12 in New York also must be immunized against meningococcal disease. See New York State Immunization Requirements for School Entrance/Attendance (PDF) or check out the CareMount Pediatrics vaccination schedule and policy at 

Vaccines are not just for babies and young children.  A child may receive many vaccinations between birth and age 6, but additional shots are necessary during preteen and teen years.

Preteens (ages 11-12) should receive Menactra®, which protects against meningococcal meningitis; Tdap, to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; and HPV vaccine, administered as a series of shots to minimize risk of developing cancers caused by the human papillomavirus.

About HPV

A common virus, HPV is spread through sexual contact and can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men, head and neck cancers,  and colon cancer in men and women as well as causing genital warts.   When administered to a child before his or her exposure to HPV, especially during the preteen years, the vaccine offers a higher level of immunity.

If not already immunized, teenagers should receive HPV vaccine and may require other vaccine booster shots to maintain a high level of protection.

Parents play a crucial role in empowering their older children to become willing participants in the vaccination program.

A few tips:

Before the Wellness Visit:

  • Record your child’s immunization history; bring that information to your pediatrician’s office.
  • Check your state’s web site for the required vaccination schedule.
  • Prepare your child by reminding your older child what to expect and why vaccinations are so important.


  • Review information that the doctor gives you about the vaccine.
  • Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness or swelling that may develop at child’s vaccination site.
  • If pain develops and the doctor approves, offer your child a non-aspirin pain-reliever.
  • Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids following vaccination.
  • Contact your pediatrician should your child develop any unexpected reaction.