Rhonda Patt

Ask the pediatrician: Immunizations aren’t just for babies; teens need them, too


Q. Our 11-year-old daughter had her annual physical, and I was surprised she was due for vaccines again. What vaccines should she be getting at this age? Does she really need them?

A. World Immunization Week is April 24-30 and is focused on closing the immunization gap. Your question creates a great segue into adolescent vaccine awareness. Parents should know that vaccines are not just for babies – teens need vaccines, too. Below is a list of teen vaccines.


The Tdap vaccine protects again tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. As an infant and toddler, children are immunized with the DTaP vaccine against these diseases; however, immunity begins to wane as children reach adolescence. The Tdap vaccine is given as a single booster dose at age 11 or 12. Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause a prolonged cough in teens and adults. Pertussis can be fatal for infants.

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some, but not all, serotypes of Neisseria meningitidis. N. meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause meningitis (infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) or bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream).

Meningococcal disease is devastating and often fatal. Ten percent of patients die even with early diagnosis and proper treatment. Twenty percent of survivors of meningococcal disease will end up with a long-term disability such as deafness, brain damage or amputation of a limb.

There are two shots in the meningococcal vaccine series. The first is given at age 11 or 12 . Then a booster dose is given between the ages of 16-18.

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine protects against human papilloma virus (HPV) types that cause most cases of cervical cancer as well as some forms of cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina and throat. Certain HPV vaccines also protect against genital and anal warts.

The HPV vaccine is a series of three injections given over six months and can be started as young as age 11. The series is most effective when completed before the person becomes sexually active.

Every year in the United States, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 4,000 women die of this disease annually. About 1 of 100 sexually active adults has visible genital warts at any given time.

▪ Teens should also receive an annual flu vaccine.

Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email living@charlotteobserver.com; put “pediatrician” in the subject line.