Vaccines protect children from serious diseases. As they get older, teens can get diseases they already got shots for because the protection from vaccines can wear off. This is why teens need a second dose of meningococcal vaccine at age 16. This second dose is called a booster dose. The booster helps increase their protection after the dose they received at age 11 or 12 decreases. Older teens and young adults are more at risk to get meningococcal disease so they need a boost in their protection from the vaccine.
The meningococcal vaccine protects against some of the germs that can cause meningitis. Meningitis is a serious disease that can cause swelling around the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause a deadly blood infection. The symptoms of meningitis can become severe very quickly. Even within 24 hours.
The ages when the risk for meningococcal disease increases are 16 to 23 years. That’s why getting the booster dose at age 16 is so important. You want them to be protected before they graduate from high school and start working or go to college.
When your teen gets the booster dose of meningococcal vaccine, they can also get caught up on other vaccines like human papillomavirus (HPV); tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap); and flu. Your doctor may also offer a vaccine that protects against an additional type of meningococcal disease, meningococcal B vaccine. These vaccines can be given at the same time.
Vaccines have been studied very carefully and are safe and effective. They can cause mild side effects, like a sore arm where the shot was given. The mild side effects are temporary and go away after a day or two. If you have questions or concerns about the vaccines that are recommended for your child, ask your doctor or nurse about them.
Teenagers are busy with school, sports, music, and other activities. This can make it hard to schedule an appointment for vaccines, but they are very important for keeping your child healthy. A great time to get these vaccines is during a yearly checkup with your child’s doctor. Your child can also get these vaccines at a physical exam required for sports, school, or camp.
It is a good idea to ask the doctor or nurse at every visit if there are any vaccines that your teen needs. You can also ask your local pharmacy about getting your teen vaccinated.
The cost of vaccines may prevent some parents from bringing their child to the doctor’s office. The Minnesota Vaccines for Children (MnVFC) program provides free or low-cost vaccines for children 18 years of age and younger who do not have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover vaccines. Ask your clinic for more information about the MnVFC program to find out if your child is eligible.
Visit Vaccines for Infants, Children, and Adolescents (www.health.state.mn.us/people/immunize/basics/kids.html) for more information on keeping your teen healthy and happy.