While you took your child to the health care clinic or pediatrician regularly for vaccines when he or she was a baby, it's easy to forget that preteens and teenagers need vaccinations, too. Take a look at this list of immunizations that your bigger kids should have. Ask your pediatricians if there are other vaccines that your child should have based on his or her health history, too.
Routine Childhood Vaccines That Were Not Given
If your child missed appointments earlier in life, it's possible that certain vaccines were missed as well. Routine vaccinations that you should check records on include those for polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox) and hepatitis. Most of the time, the school nurse will catch any discrepancies between your child's vaccination record and those that are recommended, but not all states require every vaccination that is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, so it's wise to check on this.
When your child was a baby and, later, a preschooler or kindergartner, he or she received DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Normally the vaccine given at 4 or 5 years of age was the last pertussis vaccine that a child would get; later, as an adult, the Td was recommended, which prevents tetanus and diphtheria. Now, however, preteens generally get a dose of the Tdap, which includes a small dose of the pertussis component of the vaccine. This can protect babies and small children from acquiring the pertussis infection from your older child.
Menactra is the vaccine given to preteens and teenagers to prevent meningitis, a potentially fatal infection of the fluid that bathes the spinal cord. Meningitis is relatively rare, but its incidence spikes in the teen years and particularly in the years when older teens go to university and live in dormitories. Most older kids get the first dose at age 11 or 12, then have a second dose at age 16. If your child hasn't had this one yet, it's important to do so, particularly if he or she plays any contact sports or plans on living in the dorms at college.
Human papillomavirus, commonly abbreviated as HPV, is a disease that can cause cervical, rectal and oral cancers. Gardasil is a three-vaccine series that will protect your child from the strains of HPV most likely to cause cancer. It can be given as early as 9 years of age and as late as age 26, so if you have a child or young adult in between those ages, ask your doctor whether he or she should receive this series.
Finally, remember that if your child has a low-functioning immune system or has certain illnesses, he or she might be given more or fewer vaccines. Always ask your doctor whether a certain vaccine is appropriate for your child.