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General Medical Questions
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Question : My son is a high school senior. What immunizations/boosters should he receive before beginning college in the fall?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a senior lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, he is chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. He is the former associate chief of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital Boston.

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November 14, 2013
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Vaccines keep children (and adults) safe from disease. This is the perfect time to check whether your teenager’s immunizations are up to date. In fact, everyone (including adults) should check every year that his or her immunizations are current. If everyone is properly immunized, the number of cases of potentially devastating diseases will continue to go down.

Call your doctor to be sure that your teenager is up to date with all of these vaccines:

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It’s now recommended for both girls and boys.  
  • Meningococcal (MCV4). A booster is needed at 16 years of age.
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Influenza

The schedule is approved yearly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Regarding the meningococcal vaccine, many colleges require that all incoming freshmen have received the meningococcal vaccine and booster. This vaccine protects against meningococcus. That’s a germ (bacteria) that can cause serious infections in the coverings of the brain and spinal column (spinal meningitis) or in the blood (bacteremia, also called sepsis or meningococcemia). Children can die or be permanently disabled by these infections. The highest rates of meningococcal disease generally have been seen in infants younger than 1 year of age and in people aged 18 to 23 years. There have been several outbreaks of meningococcal disease on college campuses, with cases clustered among those students living in a dorm room.

Regarding the flu vaccine, experts recommend that all people (6 months of age and older) get the flu shot every year. Your teen should get it as soon as it becomes available in your community (usually in late summer or early fall). Flu shots are offered in many locations, including pharmacies and college health centers.

For additional information about the importance of vaccines for teens, visit the vaccine and immunization pages of the CDC website. You can also visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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