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The vaccine guide for teens and college kids that parents can’t ignore

If you thought the vaccine “fun” was done with the toddler days, we have some not-so-great news for you. Yes, high schoolers and kids starting college still have a few rounds of shots coming on their vaccine schedule — think of it as just another way to prep them for the real world by developing more immunity to disease.

To avoid any confusion, we’ve put together a quick go-to list that you can use to get your teen up-to-date before they start school. As with any medical decision, parents should check with their primary care physician to determine the best course of action for their child.

More: 15 life skills every kid should know before they leave for college

Vaccine facts

The Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends following a specific vaccination schedule for teens entering high school or college. Each state, however, has its own vaccine requirements, so parents should check with their state health department. In addition, some states allow exceptions to the standard vaccination requirements based on religious or personal reasons.

The CDC suggests parents of college freshmen determine if their child needs “catch-up doses” — vaccines the child should have received at a younger age. According to the CDC, some colleges may also require students to be vaccinated against diseases like meningitis to live in residential housing.

As children get older, some early childhood vaccines may wear off and compromise a child’s protection against certain diseases. In addition, children generally develop risks for more diseases as they approach their teen years. Parents should not assume their child received all their CDC recommended vaccinations before they enter high school or college.

More: I’m just a dad trying to raise a boy who knows it’s OK to cry

CDC vaccine recommendations for high school & college students


The CDC recommends the following vaccines, starting with a child’s 11/12-year-old checkup, or as soon as possible if he or she is older and hasn’t received them:

  • Tetanus-diptheria-pertussis vaccine (Tdap): The CDC recommends a booster dose of Tdap at age 11 or 12. If the child is older and has already had a Td booster, the CDC suggests he or she get a Tdap shot to receive extra protection against pertussis and then a Td booster dose every 10 years.
  • Meningococcal vaccine: Recommended for previously unvaccinated college freshmen living in dormitories, this vaccine prevents one of the most common types of meningitis. Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness and is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
  • HPV vaccine series: HPV is known as the “cervical cancer vaccine.” The recommendations for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine have been modified and include the availability of and recommendations for bivalent HPV vaccine, and a permissive recommendation for administration of quadrivalent HPV vaccine to males aged 9 through 18 years to reduce the likelihood of acquiring genital warts. The CDC recommends the HPV series for girls 11 or 12 years of age, although it may be given to girls starting at age 9. According to the CDC, girls need to receive the HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact, before they’re exposed to human papillomavirus. HPV can prevent most cases of cervical cancer in females if it is given before a person is exposed to the virus. To prevent anal/penile cancer and cancers of the throat and mouth, the CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for boys too, at ages 11-12.
  • Influenza vaccine: The CDC recommends every person, beginning at age 6 months and continuing throughout their lifetime, should receive annual vaccination against influenza every fall or winter.

Next Up: Catch-up vaccines

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