Preteens Also Need Vaccines

One can prevent a bacterial illness that can cause infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord and bloodstream. Another can protect against several viruses that cause cancer.

They are vaccines for meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV), and are two of five immunizations recommended for preteens and adolescents. The other three recommended vaccines offer protection against whooping cough, chickenpox and influenza.

February 8-14 is Preteen Vaccine Week and the County Health and Human Services Agency is encouraging parents to get their adolescent children vaccinated.

“Vaccines are the best defense against certain infectious diseases. These vaccine-preventable diseases can have serious and severe complications and, in some cases, could result in death,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Parents should make sure all their children are up-to-date with recommended immunizations.”

Meningococcal disease is known to cause serious illness in children and adolescents, and can infect the blood and cause inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and the spinal cord.

The meningococcal disease vaccine is recommended for teens and adolescents and also people at increased risk, including college students living in dorms, military recruits, and individuals traveling to parts of the world where meningococcal disease is common.

RELATED: Meningitis vs. Meningococcal Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and young women to prevent cervical cancer. The vaccine is also recommended for boys to prevent anal cancer and genital warts.

Also, the region is in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic, which resulted in 2,048 cases last year.

The CDC recommends these vaccines and doses at the ages below:




Flu (annually)

6 months and older

1-2 (depends on prior vaccination history)

HPV (human papillomavirus)

11 – 12 years

3-dose series

Pertussis (whooping cough) Tdap booster

11 – 12 years and older


Meningococcal disease

11 – 18 years



11 – 12 years



The vaccines are available at physician offices, community clinics, and many retail pharmacies. People without medical insurance can get vaccinated at one of the seven County Public Health Centers.

Everyone 6 months and older should receive an annual flu shot. Two doses of flu vaccine are recommended for children 8 years and younger who are receiving it for the first time.

Two doses of chickenpox vaccine are recommended for unvaccinated adolescents who have not had the disease.

Parents should also be aware that all seventh graders need to show proof they received the pertussis booster shot (Tdap) before starting school.

It is estimated that about 150,000 San Diego teenagers have not received all of the recommended vaccines.

“A preteen preventive health doctor visit is a great way to make sure older youth and teens get their recommended vaccines,” Wooten said. “This can also be done as part of a sports physical or other medical visit”.

For more information on vaccines, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966 or visit

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact