With back-to-school season approaching, health officials are reminding North Carolinians to ensure their preteens and teenagers are current on their vaccinations.
“Vaccination is the best and safest way to protect your child from potentially life-threatening diseases including meningitis and cancers caused by human papillomavirus, also known as HPV,” said State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D., MPH. “Vaccinations also help prevent the spread of diseases in student populations.”
DHHS is partnering with the North Carolina Pediatric Society and the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians for a month-long awareness campaign to help ensure that school-age children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Governor Roy Cooper issued a proclamation that commemorates this important month of vaccine awareness.
As children move into adolescence, they become more susceptible to certain diseases, making it more important to stay current with immunizations. For preteens, ages 11-12, the following four vaccines are recommended:
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) to protect against some of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease, including meningitis.
- Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Human papillomavirus vaccine to help protect from HPV infection and cancers caused by HPV.
- Influenza vaccine to protect against the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.
The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and Tdap (whooping cough) are required for school entry in North Carolina.
Immunizations continue through the teen years. A booster dose of MCV4 is needed at age 16 to maintain protection against bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease. Depending on risk factors, some teens may need serogroup B meningococcal vaccine as well. Those with teenagers should talk to their pediatrician or family physician about what is appropriate.
“You can use any health care visit, including for sports or camp physicals, checkups and sick visits to have your preteen or teen vaccinated,” said Scott St. Clair, M.D., FAAP, president of the N.C. Pediatric Society. “We suggest keeping a conversation open with your health care professional to know what vaccinations are due and when they should be given.”