While we’re still enjoying the spoils of summer before we know it we’ll start getting our adolescents ready to return to school. School supplies, backpacks, new tennis shoes and after-school activities. It’s an energized, hopeful time. And it’s a perfect time to make sure our children are current on their vaccinations.

July is Adolescent Immunization Awareness month in North Carolina. The NC Academy of Family Physicians, the NC Pediatric Society and the NC Division of Public Heath are partnering for a month-long awareness campaign to help North Carolinians of all ages, but especially young people, to make sure they are protected from certain vaccine-preventable diseases.

“When not vaccinated, our teens are significantly at higher risk for diseases, and can spread those diseases into their school community,” said Charles Rhodes, NC Academy of Family Physicians President. “Preteen and teenagers face potentially life-threatening disease including meningitis and cancers caused by HPV.”

As children move into adolescence, the potential to contract certain diseases increases, making the important of keeping immunizations current even greater. For our preteens ages 11-12, there are four recommended vaccines, some of which are required for school entry in North Carolina:

• Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4) protects against some of the bacteria caused by meningococcal disease.

• Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect girls and boys from HPV infection and cancers caused by HPV.

• Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

• Influenza (flu) vaccine, remember everyone 11-12 years of should get a flu vaccine every year, even healthy kids.

Immunizations continue through the teen years. A booster dose of (MCV4) is needed at age 16 to maintain protection against bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease. Depending on risk factors, some teens many need serogroup B meningococcal vaccine as well. The bottom line is to talk to your pediatrician or family physician about what may be appropriate for your teenager.

“It’s easy to keep your adolescent immunized,” said Scott St. Clair, MD, FAAP, and president of the NC Pediatric Society. “You can use in any health care visit, including for sports or camp physicals, checkups and sick visits to have your preteen or teen vaccinated. We suggest keeping a conversation open with your health care professional to know the what and when of you adolescent immunizations.”

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