The Basics: Overview
Doctors recommend that all pre-teens ages 11 and 12 get important shots (also called vaccines or immunizations) to protect against serious diseases.
What shots does my child need?
All pre-teens need to get the following shots.
This shot protects against types of meningococcal disease, including meningitis. Meningitis is a very serious infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Learn more about the meningococcal shot.
These shots protect against HPV (human papillomavirus), which can cause several types of cancer in men and women. The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots over several months, starting at age 11 or 12. Learn more about HPV shots.
Tdap booster shot
This shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis). It's a single shot that's given to pre-teens at ages 11 or 12. Learn more about the Tdap shot.
Yearly flu shot
Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect against the flu.
The Basics: Why Shots are Important
Why does my child need these shots?
Shots protect your child from serious – and even deadly – diseases. For example:
- Meningococcal disease can cause the loss of an arm or leg – and can even be deadly.
- Tetanus can cause muscle spasms, breathing problems, paralysis (loss of muscle function), and death.
- HPV can cause some types of cancers later in life.
Some serious diseases can spread easily from person to person, like the flu and whooping cough.
As kids grow older, some of their childhood vaccines begin to wear off. That’s why it’s important to get the Tdap booster shot. Also, pre-teens and teens are at increased risk for some diseases as they get older, like meningococcal disease and HPV infections.
It’s important for every child to get shots.
Thanks to shots, many serious childhood diseases that used to be common are now rare. But the bacteria and viruses (germs) that cause these diseases are still around.
Each person who isn’t vaccinated can get these diseases and spread them to other people.
Watch this video to learn how giving pre-teens a booster shot for whooping cough can help protect them – and people around them:
The Basics: Safety and Side Effects
Are there any side effects from these shots?
Side effects from shots are usually mild and only last a short time. The most common side effect is pain or redness where the shot was given. Many children have no side effects at all.
Shots are very safe.
Vaccines are tested for years to make sure they're safe before doctors start giving them to people. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are constantly checking all the vaccines doctors use to make sure they continue to be safe. The chance that a vaccine will cause a serious problem is very small.
Take Action: See a Doctor
You can protect your child's health by making sure your pre-teen gets all the recommended shots.
Schedule a checkup for your pre-teen.
The meningococcal, HPV, and Tdap vaccines are given during your child’s yearly checkup at age 11 or 12. If your child is older but didn’t get these shots, it’s not too late. Make an appointment with the doctor to get them now.
Many states require the meningococcal and Tdap shots for pre-teens before they start school.
You may not even need to make an appointment to get your child the yearly flu shot. You can get a flu shot at a health clinic, pharmacy, or your local health department. Use this vaccine locator to find out where you can get the flu vaccine near you.
Tell the doctor about bad reactions.
Serious side effects after getting a shot – like a severe allergic reaction – are very rare. If your child or another family member has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine in the past, tell the doctor before your child gets a shot.
Pay extra attention to your child for a few days after she gets a shot. If you see something that worries you, call your child’s doctor.
Take Action: Cost and Insurance
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover recommended shots for kids. This means you may be able to get your pre-teen’s shots at no cost to you.
Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.
If you don’t have insurance, your pre-teen can still get shots.
Content last updated July 24, 2020
This information on pre-teen immunizations was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jill B. Roark, MPH
Health Communication Specialist
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention