• Text Resize A A A
  • Print Print
  • Share Share Share Share

August 2018: Ensure Adolescents Get the Vaccines They Need

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health is observing National Immunization Awareness Month by highlighting why adolescents—not just infants and toddlers—should stay up to date on vaccinations. Vaccines help protect the recipient from serious diseases. Some diseases become a bigger threat as children grow older, and the protection of some childhood vaccines can wear off over time—making adolescence a critical period for updating vaccinations.

Immunization coverage rates are the percentage of a population that has received the recommended vaccines. While coverage rates for most adolescent-specific vaccines are over 80 percent, some work remains to be done. For example, only 68.6% of girls and 62.6% of boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine in 2017. That’s significantly lower than the average coverage rates for early childhood vaccines.

Why Do Adolescents Fall Behind on Vaccines?

While coverage rates for most early childhood vaccines are at or above 90 percent, vaccination rates decline in adolescence. Research indicates that high out-of-pocket costs and lack of awareness can prevent adolescents from receiving the vaccines they need. In addition, adolescents from lower socioeconomic groups or rural areas are less likely to receive the HPV and meningitis vaccines.

In 2017 among adolescents ages 13 to 17, 68.6% of girls and 62.6% of boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccines.
2017 HPV vaccine coverage rates for adolescents ages 13-17

How Can Families Ensure Adolescents Keep Up?

Parents play a key role in ensuring that adolescents receive the vaccines they need. To keep vaccinations up to date, follow these three steps:

  • Stay on schedule. OAH compiled a list of online tools and created a printable checklist to help families keep track of which vaccines their teen has or hasn’t received.
  • Keep records. Documenting your child’s immunization history makes it easier to stay on top of what shots they’ve received and which are due next. Ask your doctor for a print-out of immunization records, or download the CDC Vaccine Schedules app to find tools for keeping your own records.
  • Learn about affordable options. Through the Vaccines For Children program, CDC provides vaccines at no cost to eligible families. Visit the Q&A page for more information.

What Vaccines Do Adolescents Need?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adolescents receive the following four vaccines, starting at age 11 or 12:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine (1 dose) protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough). Tdap also serves as a booster to the DTaP vaccine, which is administered in childhood.
  • Meningococcal conjugate (MCV4, or MenACWY) vaccine (2 doses) protects against meningococcal disease (such as meningitis or sepsis, a blood infection).
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (# of doses depends on age) prevents most cancers caused by HPV that can occur later in life. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys (Gardasil only) and girls (Cervarix or Gardasil).
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine (1 dose every year) protects against different strains of seasonal flu and is recommended for everyone over six months old.

Spread the Word with These Posts

  • Facebook: August is National Immunization Awareness Month! The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has information about the vaccines adolescents need to stay healthy and resources to help keep track of immunizations. https://bit.ly/2tWca4U.
  • Twitter: August is National Immunization Awareness Month. @TeenHealthGov has a list of online tools to help keep track of which vaccines and how many doses are needed, and whether adolescents have gotten them. https://bit.ly/2zRwwvz #NIAM18.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on August 31, 2018