Facts About Adolescent Immunization

Are there vaccines that protect against communicable diseases? 

Yes! Immunizations against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria and varicella (chickenpox) are available for all adolescents. In addition, vaccinations against hepatitis A, influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease are needed by some adolescents.

Should all adolescents be immunized?

Yes. All adolescents require measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria immunizations. All adolescents with diabetes or chronic heart, lung, liver or kidney disorders need protection against influenza and pneumococcal disease and should consult their healthcare providers regarding their need for these shots. Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is recommended for those not previously vaccinated and who have no reliable history of the disease. Hepatitis B vaccine is indicated for all adolescents aged 8-18 who have not been vaccinated previously. Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for adolescents traveling to or working in countries where the disease is common, and for those living in communities with outbreaks of the disease. It is also recommended for adolescents who have chronic liver disease or clotting-factor disorders, use illegal injection drugs, or are male and have sex with other males.

How often do I need to be immunized?

Hepatitis B vaccine is generally administered in 3 doses. Adolescents not previously vaccinated with 2 doses of MMR vaccine require these. Immunization against tetanus and diphtheria (Td vaccine) should be supplemented with a booster shot at 11-12 years of age and every 10 years thereafter. One dose of chickenpox vaccine is recommended for adolescents 11-12 years of age, or 2 doses for those 13 or older, if there is no proof of prior chickenpox disease or immunization. The flu shot should be administered yearly to adolescents who have any medical condition that places them at high risk for complications associated with influenza. Immunization against pneumococcal disease is recommended for adolescents with certain chronic diseases who are at increased risk for this disease or its complications, and a booster dose is recommended 5 years after the initial dose for this group. Hepatitis A vaccine is administered in 2 doses.

Are there side effects to these shots?

Vaccines are among the safest medicines available. Some common side effects are a sore arm or low fever. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting a vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with the diseases that these vaccines prevent are much greater than the potential risks associated with the vaccines themselves.

Should I carry a personal immunization record?

Yes! This record will help you and your healthcare provider ensure that you are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. Ask your provider for this record, and be sure to take it with you every time you visit so it can be reviewed by your provider and updated each time you are immunized.


FACT: Vaccines are among the safest medicines available.

FACT: Approximately 340,000 children and adolescents aged 2-18 years have chronic illnesses, placing them at increased risk for influenza and pneumococcal diseases and their complications.

FACT: More than 8 million children and adolescents aged 2-18 years have at least one medical condition placing them at high risk for complications of the flu.

FACT: In the United States, approximately 20% of adolescents aged 11-12 years have not had chickenpox. Adolescents are 10 times more likely than children to develop severe complications or even die when this disease is contracted.

FACT: Although no longer a very common disease in the United States, diphtheria remains a large problem in other countries and can pose a serious threat to United States citizens who may not be fully immunized and who travel to other countries or have contact with immigrants or international travelers coming to the U.S.

FACT: Forty to fifty cases of tetanus (lockjaw) occur each year, resulting in at least 5 deaths annually in the United States.

FACT: More than 70% of the 100,000-140,000 new cases of hepatitis B reported each year strike adolescents and young adults. The hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

FACT: The hepatitis B vaccine is recognized as the first anti-cancer vaccine because it can prevent primary liver cancer caused by hepatitis B infection.

FACT: The highest rates of hepatitis A occur among children and adolescents 5-14 years old, and most cases can be attributed to person-to-person transmission.

FACT: Of the 575 measles patients in 1996 for whom age was known, one-third were 10- 19 years old.

FACT: About one-third of people infected with the mumps virus do not have any symptoms.

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