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Adolescence – A Time for Vaccinations

By Gregg C. Sylvester, MD, MPH and Laura York, PhD - This article originally published on Get Healthy Stay Healthy

Adolescent Health Concern
For many people in the U.S., adolescence is one of the healthiest times of life. Most parents hope to keep it that way for their young children and teenagers as they progress to young adulthood. The World Health Organization widely defines adolescence as a time that begins at the start of puberty and ends when an adult identity and behavior are accepted. Though this may include a varying range of experience, the changes that typically occur in adolescence happen between the ages of 10 and 19 years.

Teen healthcare has become a hot topic and is being referred to nationally as the “adolescent healthcare platform.”

Along with rapid physical, intellectual and emotional development, there are many social challenges and health concerns during adolescence (diet and exercise, for example). One important component of adolescent wellness is vaccination.

Adolescence Is a Time for Vaccines
Vaccines are sometimes a forgotten part of adolescent health. Many people think of vaccines as protections for babies and young children. Yet, specific vaccines as well as booster doses of some childhood vaccines are recommended during adolescence to continue protection for teens and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these vaccines include:

  • Tdap Vaccine: recommended to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Meningococcal Vaccine: protects against some types of the bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease, including bloodstream infections and meningitis
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine: helps protect both female and male adolescents from HPV infections and cancers caused by HPV
  • Flu Vaccine: recommended on a yearly basis for healthy teens

Annual flu vaccination is needed to cover the changes in types of viruses that cause flu from year to year.

For a complete list of recommended vaccinations for children from 7 years through 18 years of age, view the following PDF.

Encouraging New Experiences
Adolescents are often in new environments for the first time, trying new things and meeting new people. This can mean that they will come in contact with new germs and experiment in new behaviors that may spread illness. It is important to emphasize general safety guidelines without creating unnecessary fear.

Following general guidelines for good hygiene and general health protection is advised for everyone. For adolescents, these may include:

  • Always coughing into a sleeve or tissue
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Using hand sanitizer
  • Not drinking from a common source such as a water fountain, soda cans, cups, or a punch bowl
  • Not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cosmetics or lip balm

The best thing parents can do is to help young people understand how to be as healthy and protected as possible. This includes wellness initiatives, which importantly includes getting vaccinated as recommended.

Laura York, PhD, is the Global Medical Lead for Pfizer Vaccines

Gregg C. Sylvester, MD, MPH, is the Regional Medical and Scientific Affairs for the Americas, Pfizer Vaccines

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