Are Your Teens Up to Date on Their Shots?

Vaccination rates among teens for several vaccines up but HPV vaccine rates slowing

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The best way to avoid the negative effects of an infectious disease is to avoid getting the disease in the first place. That is exactly what keeping up with your vaccinations is intended to do.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that vaccination rates for several important shots have been increasing among teens.

Vaccination rates for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) and for meningococcal disease (meningitis) have increased since 2011.

However, rates for girls getting the HPV vaccine have lagged. This vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer.

The authors of this report recommended that families take every opportunity during check-ups to be sure children and teens are up to date on their immunizations.

"Ask your doctor about the CDC recommended immunizations."

The report, led by C. Robinette Curtis, MD, at the CDC, looked at current US rates of vaccination among preteens and teens.

The CDC recommends that preteens receive one booster dose of the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) vaccine, one dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine and the first of three doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at age 11 to 12.

Pertussis is whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that has been on the rise in the US in recent years. Meningitis is an inflammation of the nervous system that can be fatal. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and certain cancers.

The CDC also recommends that all adolescents receive the flu vaccine each year as well as any vaccines they are behind on.

To find out how closely teens have been following these recommendations, the CDC looked at data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen, involving about 19,199 teens aged 13 to 17.

The researchers found that vaccination coverage for most of these immunizations has increased.

The percentage of adolescents getting their Tdap booster increased from 78.2 percent to 84.6 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The percentage of adolescents getting their meningitis shot increased from 70.5 percent to 74 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The vaccination coverage for both Tdap and the meningococcal vaccines has increased steadily since 2005-2006.

Boys' vaccination rates for the HPV shot more than doubled from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent in 2012.

Girls' rates for the HPV shot, however, remained similar in both years at around 53 to 54 percent for the first dose.

HPV vaccination rates lagged early on between 2007 and 2011 and have recently stalled.

The HPV vaccine Gardasil, which protects against four strains of HPV, was licensed by the FDA in 2006. The other one, Cervarix, which protects against two strains, was licensed in 2009.

A national goal related to immunization rates is for all US states to meet targets for the "Healthy People 2020" objectives, a 10-year federal plan to improve the health of all Americans.

Although the goals for this program have been met for the Tdap, meningococcal vaccine and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, no state has met the target rate of 80 percent coverage among females aged 13 to 15 for the HPV vaccine.

Vaccines are usually covered as preventive health under all insurance plans.

For those without insurance or a plan that will not cover vaccines, another federal program is available.

"Through enrolled vaccination providers, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines for uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, and other children through age 18 years whose families might not otherwise be able to afford vaccines," the report stated.

"Through the VFC program, eligible children and teens can receive recommended vaccines at no cost to their families for the vaccines," the authors wrote. "Additional efforts are needed to ensure that healthcare providers administer recommended HPV and meningococcal vaccinations to boys and girls during the same visits when Tdap is given."

It is also important for families to keep up with teens' shots, the report noted.

"Providers, parents, and adolescents should use every healthcare visit, whether for health problems, well-checks, or physicals for sports, school, or camp, as an opportunity to review adolescents’ immunization histories and ensure that every adolescent is fully vaccinated on time with every recommended vaccine," the authors wrote.

This report was published August 29 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report used internal funding and was authored only by CDC employees.

Review Date: 
August 29, 2013
Last Updated:
August 30, 2013