Preteen Vaccines


Get Your Preteen All Recommended Immunizations

Immunizations are just as important for preteens as they are for younger children and infants. Vaccines protect your preteen against serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses by increasing the body's ability to fight infection. Any visit with your doctor or health-care provider is a good opportunity to bring your preteen up to date on recommended immunizations. The HPV, Tdap, meningococcal, and flu vaccines are recommended for all preteens.

When Should I Vaccinate My Child?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes recommended immunization schedules that list which vaccines are needed at certain ages.  You can also ask your doctor about what's recommended for your child.

For information on where to get these vaccines, ask a health-care provider, contact a regional DSHS Immunization office, inquire at a pharmacy, or ask at your local health department. Most health insurance plans cover recommended vaccines, but confirm with your insurance provider prior to going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance, or if your insurance does not cover the recommended vaccines, contact the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program for additional help.

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HPV Vaccine

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent a number of cancers that can be caused by HPV. Some types of HPV can cause cancer in men and women, including cervical and other types of cancer.  The HPV vaccine better protects both girls and boys if they receive it earlier in life.

View the HPV vaccine information sheets: 

HPV Vaccine FAQs:

Why does my preteen need the HPV vaccine?

Certain types of HPV can cause several different kinds of cancers. The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective early prevention measure for both boys and girls. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. According to the CDC, there are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States, and cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in women each year in the United States.  HPV can also cause other types of cancer in men and women, including anal, penile, and throat cancers. 

Why does my adolescent son need this vaccine? How does HPV affect boys?

Genital warts and several cancers in males are linked to HPV. According to the CDC, about 7,000 HPV-associated cancers in the United States may be prevented by vaccine each year in men. Males are often unknowing carriers of HPV, and may spread HPV to another person. Early vaccination helps decrease and prevent the spread of HPV.

What is the vaccination process and timing?

The CDC recommends for boys and girls 11-12 years of age should now receive two doses of the HPV vaccine.  Teens and young adults starting the vaccine series at ages 15-26 years of age will continue to need three doses of the HPV vaccine to protect against HPV infection.  For detailed information, please see Vaccine Advisory No. 28 - CDC Recommends Two HPV Shots for Younger Adolescents.

Why is the HPV vaccine recommended at ages 11 or 12 years?

The HPV vaccine produces higher antibodies that fight infection when given at this age compared to older ages. For the HPV vaccine to work most effectively, it is highly recommended that adolescents get all three doses prior to any sexual activity with another person.

There are three HPV vaccines - Cervarix®, Gardasil®, and Gardasil®9. What are the differences between them?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has not stated a preference for any of the HPV vaccines licensed for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Cervarix® is no longer available in the United States. 

Both Gardasil® and Gardasil®9 are safe and proven to prevent cervical cancers in women, as well as diseases and other cancers associated with HPV. Both vaccines protect against several HPV types, including HPV types 16 and 18 which cause approximately 66% of cervical cancers and the majority of other HPV-attributed cancers in the United States.  Gardasil®9 also protects against five additional HPV cancer-causing types (31, 33, 45, 52, and 58), which account for about 15% of cervical cancer.  Both vaccines are available for boys and girls.

Please visit the CDC website for additional information on Gardasil® and Gardasil®9.


Tdap Vaccine

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) are all caused by bacterial infections. Both diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through the air, whereas tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds.

Infants and toddlers get shots called DTaP. But as they get older, the protection from the DTaP vaccine starts to wear off. To protect your adolescent from serious illness, the CDC recommends the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine, a booster shot that protects your adolescent from the same diseases that the DTaP vaccine covered in childhood.

View the Tdap vaccine information sheet.

Tdap Vaccine FAQs:

Why does my adolescent need the Tdap vaccine?

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause severe muscle spasms and rigidity, especially in the jaw. If untreated, tetanus may cause death. Diphtheria is not as common as tetanus but can be very dangerous. It causes a thick coating on the back of the nose or throat that can cause difficulties breathing or swallowing. It can also cause paralysis and heart failure. Pertussis (whooping cough) spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing. It can cause a bad cough that lasts for many weeks, which can cause adolescents to experience high absenteeism from school. Often babies who are too young to get the vaccine contract whooping cough from their older brothers, sisters, or other adults in the household.

When should my adolescent get the Tdap vaccine?

According to the CDC, adolescents should receive the Tdap vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old. If adolescents between 13 and 18 years old haven't been vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, parents should consult a health-care provider about getting them vaccinated right away.

What are the potential side effects of the Tdap vaccine?

The CDC offers the latest vaccine information on their Tdap Vaccine page.

What are the risks if my child does not get the vaccine?

These illnesses are rare but serious. According to the CDC, as many as 1 out of 5 people who get tetanus die, and about 1 out of 10 people who get diphtheria will die from it. Pertussis (whooping cough) infection is on the rise and can be deadly for babies, who are too young to have protection from their own vaccines. This makes it all the more important for their preteen brothers and sisters to get vaccinated.


Meningococcal Vaccine

Meningitis is an inflammation around the brain and spinal cord. It is a very serious, even fatal bacterial disease spread through close person-to-person contact. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) protects against some of the bacteria that can cause meningitis. While not as easily contracted as the common cold, it can be spread via saliva through activities such as kissing.

Meningococcal Vaccine FAQs:

Why does my adolescent need the meningococcal vaccine?

Young people ages 16 through 21 years have the highest rates of meningococcal disease. While the disease is not very common, the vaccine is a key prevention tool. Meningococcal bacteria can cause permanent disabilities and even death.

At what age does my child need to receive the vaccine?

All 11- to 12-year-olds should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4).

How long does the vaccination last? Is there a booster involved?

According to the CDC, a single dose at the recommended age of 11 or 12 years may not offer protection through the highest-risk ages of 16 though 21. A booster dose should be given at age 16.

For adolescents who receive the first dose at age 13 through 15 years, the CDC still recommends a one-time booster dose at age 16.

For school year 2013-2014, students in grades 7 through 11 attending public or private school are required to have one dose of meningococcal vaccine. Incoming college and university students in Texas are required to receive the MCV4 vaccine before attending school.

What are the potential side effects of the vaccine?

Common side effects include redness or pain where the shot was given. If these problems occur, they usually last for 1 or 2 days. Please visit the CDC's webpage on meningococcal vaccine for more information.

Texas College Students are Required to Receive the MCV4 Vaccine


Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

Influenza, or flu, as it is commonly known, is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Most adolescents sick with the flu will recover in less than two weeks. But according to the CDC, pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are common complications from flu.

View the flu vaccine information sheets:
Inactivated (flu shot) | Live, attenuated (nasal spray)

Influenza (Flu) Vaccine FAQs

Why does my adolescent need the flu vaccine?

Influenza is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to other family and community members.

When should my adolescent get the flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends that adolescents should get the flu vaccine every year as soon as it's available - either at a doctor's office or clinic, the local health department, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, grocery stores, or schools.

Why does my adolescent need a vaccine every year?

Flu viruses are constantly changing, with new flu viruses appearing each year. The flu vaccine is updated annually to protect against changing viruses.

What are the potential side effects of the flu vaccine?

Different side effects can be associated with the flu shot and nasal spray flu vaccines. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of influenza infection.

The viruses in the flu shots are either killed (inactivated) or recombinant (don't contain virus particles), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Most people who receive the flu shot do not experience serious problems from it. Mild problems that may be experienced include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fainting (mainly adolescents), headache, muscle aches, fever, and nausea. If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days. Life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot is given.

The viruses in the nasal-spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause the severe symptoms that are often associated with influenza illness. Some side effects that could occur in children include runny nose, wheezing, headache, fever, vomiting, and muscle aches. In adults common side effects include headache, runny nose, sore throat, and cough. If these problems occur, they begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.

Please visit the CDC website for additional information on the flu shot and nasal spray vaccines.


Resources for Health-Care Providers

Health-care providers can find additional information on adolescent vaccines on our Preteen Vaccines - Provider Information page. Resources on this page include research-based adolescent vaccine recommendations, tips for addressing preteen vaccines with parents, as well as additional tools provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last updated September 21, 2017