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Hit them with another shot

Thanks to vaccinations, most American kids today will likely never meet anyone who suffered a disease like polio, diphtheria or measles. Current guidelines call for children to receive vaccinations against at least 14 illnesses by age 2 with additional boosters by kindergarten. However, immunizations aren’t just for babies anymore—new shots take aim at teenagers. If you have an adolescent, talk to your healthcare provider about these new immunizations:

  • Pertussis (whooping cough) booster. Although the incidence of whooping cough reached an all-time low in the mid 1970s, more than 25,000 cases of the illness were reported in 2004, with more than a third occurring in adolescents between ages 11 and 18. It causes vomiting, labored breathing and coughing spasms violent enough to break a rib. Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, emphysema, cerebral hemorrhage and encephalitis. The pertussis booster has been added to the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster and is known as the Tdap. Adolescents ages 11 to 18 should get one booster dose of Tdap—the preferred age is 11 or 12.
  • Meningococcal vaccine (MCV-4). Meningococcal disease is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in American children, teens and young adults. One in 10 people who get the disease dies from it, and many more are left with lifelong complications like amputations, hearing loss, seizures, mental impairment or stroke. College students living in dorms are at particular risk. Experts recommend the vaccine for kids ages 11 to 12, teens age 15 or upon entering high school (whichever comes first) and unvaccinated college-bound freshmen. Other teens who haven’t previously been vaccinated and wish to reduce their risk can also get the vaccine.
  • Varicella (chicken pox) booster. The vaccine to prevent chicken pox has reduced hospitalizations and deaths from the illness by more than 70 percent. However, one dose of the vaccine may not continue to provide protection into adulthood, when the illness can be more severe. Experts advise a second dose of the varicella vaccine for children ages 4 to 6 years and any adolescents and adults who previously received only one dose and haven’t had chicken pox.
  • HPV vaccine. This new vaccine protects against four types of human papillomavirus, which are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the three-dose HPV vaccine for females ages 9 to 26, ideally given at age 11 or 12.
  • Flu shot. Generally, anyone who wants to avoid the flu can receive this annual vaccine, but it’s especially important if your teen has a chronic health problem such as asthma or diabetes or you have a baby or older adult living in your home. The best time to get the flu shot (or nasal-mist version) is during October or November.