The adolescent immunization requirements will not only lengthen the time for which immunized students are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, but will also lower their chances of passing diseases to classmates with weakened immune systems, children and infants, the elderly and others. Immunizations help keep adolescents healthy and prevent problems as they grow older.
The Tdap shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Pertussis is very contagious disease and can last for 10 weeks or more. If pertussis is passed to infants, it can be life-threatening. Young children are protected when they get the DTaP vaccine, but protection wears off as kids get older, so adolescents need the Tdap shot.
The meningitis vaccine prevents meningococcal meningitis, a swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that is caused by a very serious bacterial infection. Meningococcal meningitis can become deadly in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment, people who get meningitis die in about 10 percent of cases. About 20 percent of survivors of meningococcal meningitis have a long-term disability such as deafness, brain damage, or amputated limbs.
While Tdap and meningococcal vaccines are the only two shots required for 7th and 12th graders, the HPV and flu vaccines also are strongly recommended for adolescents. The HPV vaccine prevents strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer as well as other genital cancers and genital warts. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over 6 months—it is very important to get all 3 shots to be fully protected.
Parents should take their child to his or her health care provider for a routine adolescent check-up to determine if their teen’s shots are current and meet the school entry requirements. If the child is missing shots, he or she can receive them during that visit.
Children under 19 years old who are uninsured, underinsured, or eligible for Medicaid or WVCHIP qualify for free vaccinations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Parents should contact their local health department or their child’s physician for more information on this program.
Students over the age of 19 who are uninsured may contact the local health department for vaccinations.
Please visit the following websites for more information: