Vaccines Available for Teens Beyond Those Required for School

Updated 2 years ago Edited from a Press Release

Hurricane, WV - As parents and caregivers are getting their teens ready to start school, many are thinking about the vaccines that are required for 7th and 12thgrade in West Virginia: Tdap (whooping cough) and meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccines. While these vaccines are very important steps in keeping our teens safe from several preventable diseases, it is important to keep in mind that these are not the only vaccines recommended for teens.

Three other vaccines are also recommended for teens as well. These are HPV, meningococcal B, and influenza vaccines. All three of these vaccines prevent dangerous, sometimes deadly, diseases.

Human papillomavirus is a common virus, particularly among teens and young adults. It is so common that is has been estimated to infect about 80% of people at some point in their lifetime. HPV infection can lead to six different types of cancer that affect both males and females. West Virginia has the second highest incidence of HPV-associated cancer rates in the nation.

“People always say that ‘we want to find a cure for cancer,’ but here we have a vaccine that is highly effective at preventing a virus that is known to cause cancer. This is our opportunity to protect our teens from six different types of cancer,” said Michelle Chappell, Co-Chair of the West Virginia Immunization Network and Senior Manager of State & Primary Care Systems for the American Cancer Society.

The HPV vaccine series is recommended at 11 and 12 years of age, but can be given through 26 years of age if it wasn’t received at 11 or 12. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the group of medical and public health experts that develop the vaccine recommendations for the U.S., recently expanded the age range for HPV vaccination so that adults 27 to 45 years can now receive the HPV vaccine as well. However, the vaccine is most effective when given at 11 to 12 years of age when the immune response to the vaccine is optimal and before the patient is ever exposed to the virus.

Meningococcal B vaccine is another vaccine recommended for teens, preferably for teens 16 to 18 years of age. Meningococcal disease can cause infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord as well as bloodstream infections and is so dangerous that about one of every 10 people who gets the disease dies from it. There are several types of meningococcal bacteria. The MenACWY vaccine, which is required for 7th and 12th graders in West Virginia, protects against meningococcal bacteria types A, C, W, and Y. However, it does not prevent meningococcal B, which has been the cause of most recent outbreaks of meningitis on college campuses.

Although teens are likely to have been vaccinated with MenACWY, they may not be protected from meningococcal B. Parents and caregivers should talk with their teens’ healthcare provider to see if meningococcal B vaccine is recommended for their teen.

The third vaccine recommended for teens is the annual influenza vaccine. Even healthy teens can suffer severe effects of the flu and can spread it to others in the community. Flu vaccination is recommended every year for everyone 6 months of age through adulthood.

Most health insurance plans cover routine adolescent vaccination. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program also provides vaccines for children 18 years and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native.

In West Virginia, teens can receive vaccines at their healthcare providers’ office, a community health center, the local health department, and at most school-based health clinics. They can also receive HPV and influenza vaccines at pharmacies with a prescription from their healthcare provider and parental consent.

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider to find out what vaccines are recommended for your teen. For more information about vaccines, go to