Teens need vaccines before heading back to school

Tweens and teens, who may think that their days of getting back-to-school shots are behind them, should get ready to roll up their sleeves.

Older students need immunizations, but too often they skip recommended vaccines. Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri, a pediatrician at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says recommended protection includes Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis); two doses of meningococcal (to prevent meningitis, the first one recommended at 11-12 years old and second at 16); HPV (to prevent cervical cancer); and a flu shot.

A pertussis, or whooping cough, booster is important because outbreaks have occurred in several states, especially among pre-teens, teens, and in babies. The dose is recommended at 11-12 years of age because the immunity from the vaccines received during childhood can start wearing off. Pertussis infections in teens can cause prolonged, sometimes severe, coughing. Babies younger than 2 months do not yet receive the pertussis vaccine, so it’s especially important for those around them to be vaccinated so they do not unintentionally pass on the infection, says Dr. Shetgiri, who also serves at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the primary pediatric teaching hospital for UT Southwestern.

Other healthy habits, Dr. Shetgiri says, include practicing good hand-washing hygiene, following a nutritious diet, getting adequate physical activity and sleep, and having a yearly check-up.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics to learn more about pediatric clinical services at UT Southwestern.

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