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Get Your Pre-teen’s Shots on Schedule

pre-teen boy

The Basics

Doctors recommend that pre-teens ages 11 and 12 get important shots (also called vaccinations or immunizations). All pre-teens need:

  • A Tdap booster shot: This shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis).
  • An MCV4 shot: This shot protects pre-teens against a type of meningitis. Meningitis is a very serious infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord.
  • 3 HPV shots: These shots protect against human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts and anal cancer in women and men. 

Tdap and MCV4 are each given as a single shot when your child visits the doctor at age 11 or 12. The 3 HPV shots are given over a 6-month period. Your child will also need an MCV4 booster shot at age 16.

Why does my child need these shots?
Shots can prevent serious diseases. For example, meningitis can cause the loss of an arm or leg or even death. Meningitis and whooping cough can spread easily from person to person.

As kids grow older, some of the childhood vaccines begin to wear off. That’s why it’s important to get another Tdap “booster” shot. Also, pre-teens are at greater risk for more diseases as they get older, like meningitis or HPV.

Check out these Web sites to learn more about vaccines for pre-teens:

It’s important for all children and pre-teens to get shots.
The germs that cause serious childhood diseases are still around. Each person who isn’t vaccinated gives those germs a chance to spread to other people.

Are there any side effects from these shots?
Side effects from shots are usually mild and only last a short time. Many children have no side effects at all.

Vaccines are tested for years before they are put in use. The risk of harm from shots is very small.

Take Action!

Make sure your pre-teen gets important shots.

Schedule a checkup for your pre-teen.
The Tdap, MCV4, and HPV vaccines are given during your child’s yearly checkup at age 11 or 12. If your child didn’t get these shots at age 11 or 12, make an appointment to get them now.

Many states require the Tdap and MCV4 shots for school.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers recommended shots for kids. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your pre-teen’s shots at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

If you don’t have health insurance, your pre-teen can still get important shots.

Talk to your child about the HPV vaccine.
HPV is spread through sexual activity. It’s the most common STD (sexually transmitted disease) in the United States.

Some parents feel uncomfortable talking to their children about STDs. If your child is young, you may want to say that the HPV shots prevent cancer.

To start a conversation with your pre-teen, try asking what your child already knows about HPV or the HPV vaccine. If you’d like more help talking to your child, take this list of questions for the doctor about HPV shots to your child’s next appointment.

Get your child a seasonal flu shot every year.
Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

Tell the doctor about bad reactions.
Before your child gets a shot, tell your child’s doctor if you, your child, or another family member has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine.

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133