New Vaccines for Teens

Immunization Basics

Vaccines protect teenagers from pertussis, meningitis, and other infections.
Do you know which vaccines your teen needs to stay protected from vaccine-preventable diseases?. Photo (c) Eileen Hart

After getting the shots that they need to enter kindergarten when they are four or five years old, many kids remember being told that they just need one more shot when they turn twelve.

Understanding that there was just one more shot likely made going to the pediatrician less scary for most of these kids.

Of course, that there was just one more shot was never really totally true, after all, there was always that yearly flu shot.

And now, the approval of several new shots, Menactra, Gardasil, and Tdap, and the recommendation for a chickenpox booster shot, may have many kids dreading going to the Pediatrician again.

On the other hand, most parents will welcome the chance to protect their kids against pertussis (whooping cough), cervical cancer, and meningococcal disease, which can cause life-threatening infections, including meningitis and blood infections.


Menactra is a conjugate vaccine that protects children from several strains of meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis and meningococcemia (a blood infection). In fact, the meningococcal bacteria is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children.

Although not well known, many parents are aware of the tragic consequences of these infections, which can be fatal in about 10 to 15% of cases. And kids who survive often have long-term disabilities, including hearing loss, neurological problems (seizures, strokes), and the possible loss of fingers, toes, or limbs.

After a peak in young infants, children again become at risk for infection as teens and young adults.

Although approved for use in infants over the age of 9 months, it is routinely only given to children who are 11 to 12 years old, with a booster dose between the ages of 15 to 18 years. It can also be given to other people who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and other teens who want to decrease their risk of getting meningococcal meningitis or meningococcemia.

Learn more about menactra.


Boostrix and Adacel are newer Tdap vaccines that combine vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria with a booster dose of an acellular pertussis vaccine. Although these vaccines offers more protection to kids, it doesn't mean an extra shot. Instead, older kids will just get this new Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, plus acellular pertussis) vaccine instead of the previous Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster which they would typically have gotten when they were 11 or 12 years old anyway.

Since pertussis or whooping cough is on the rise in teenagers and adults, a new booster vaccine is welcome news.


Gardasil is a vaccine that has been approved by the FDA to prevent cervical cancer in females between the ages of 9 to 26 years of age. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that an HPV vaccine (Gardasil or Cervarix) be routinely given to boys and girls when they are 11 or 12 years of age.

Chicken Pox Booster Shots

To help further decrease chicken pox infections, including mild, breakthrough infections, the ACIP is now recommending that children get a second dose of the chickenpox vaccine.

This booster dose is now routinely given when kids are four to six years old. Older kids, including teenagers, can get their chicken pox booster shot at their next checkup if they have never had chicken pox.

Other New Vaccines

In addition to Menactra, Gardasil, and the Tdap vaccines, some other vaccines that have recently been approved, including:

  • Proquad, a new vaccine that combines MMR and Varivax into one shot
  • Rotateq, a new rotavirus vaccine, but it is only given to infants, so won't be given to your teen
  • Zostavax, a zoster (shingles) vaccine for older adults
  • Cervarix, another HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine
  • Menveo, another meningococcal vaccine that can be given to children who are at least two years old
  • MenHibrix, a combination Hib and meningococcal vaccine for infants who are at high risk for meningococcal disease
  • Trumenba, a new meningococcal vaccine that protects against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B. This is the type of meningococcal infection that caused outbreaks on college campuses recently, including Princeton and University of California, Santa Barbara.

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