The Basics: Overview

Doctors recommend that all pre-teens ages 11 and 12 get important vaccines (also called shots or immunizations) to protect against serious diseases. Getting your child vaccinated also protects other people in your community who may not be able to get vaccines.

Which vaccines does my child need?

All pre-teens need to get the following vaccines.

Meningococcal vaccine

This vaccine protects against types of meningococcal disease, including meningitis. Meningitis is a very serious infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Kids need their first dose at age 11 or 12 and a booster shot at age 16. Learn more about meningococcal vaccine.

HPV vaccine

This vaccine protects against HPV (human papillomavirus), which can cause several types of cancer. The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots over several months, starting at age 11 or 12. Learn more about the HPV vaccine.

Tdap booster shot

This vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis). It’s a single shot that’s given to pre-teens at age 11 or 12. Learn more about the Tdap vaccine.

Yearly flu vaccine

Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect against the flu. Learn more about the flu vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that children age 6 months and older also get vaccinated against COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for kids and teens.

Check out this vaccine schedule to learn more. 

It’s important for your pre-teen to get all recommended vaccines.

Each vaccine protects your pre-teen from different diseases. And each vaccine usually requires more than 1 dose. For the best protection, your pre-teen needs to get every dose of each vaccine. If they miss a dose, they may not be protected.

The Basics: Why Vaccines Are Important

Why does my child need these vaccines?

Vaccines protect your child from serious — and even deadly — diseases. For example: 

  • Meningococcal disease can cause brain damage, hearing and vision problems, and the loss of an arm or leg — and it can even be deadly
  • Tetanus can cause muscle spasms, breathing problems, paralysis (loss of muscle function), and death
  • HPV can cause several types of cancers later in life

Some serious diseases can spread easily from person to person, like the flu and whooping cough.

As kids get older, some of their childhood vaccines begin to wear off. That’s why it’s important to get the Tdap booster. 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 vaccines.

Thanks to vaccines, 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 sick themselves — or spread those germs to other people.

The Basics: Safety and Side Effects

Are there any side effects from these vaccines?

Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and go away after a few days. The most common side effect is pain or redness where the child got their shot. Many children don’t have any side effects at all.

Vaccines are very safe.

Vaccines go through a careful testing process before doctors start giving them to people. Also, CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to track vaccines to make sure they’re safe. The chance that a vaccine will cause a serious problem is very small.

Take Action: See a Doctor

You can protect your pre-teen’s health by making sure they get all recommended vaccines.

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 vaccines, it’s not too late. Make an appointment with the doctor to get them now.

Many states require that pre-teens get their meningococcal and Tdap shots before they start school.

You may not even need to make an appointment to get your child the yearly flu vaccine. You can get a flu vaccine at a health clinic, pharmacy, or your local health department. If you’re not sure where to start, call your child’s doctor or your local health department.

Tell the doctor about bad reactions.

Serious side effects after getting a vaccine — 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 vaccine.

Pay extra attention to your child for a few days after they get a vaccine. 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 vaccines for kids. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your pre-teen’s vaccines at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get your pre-teen’s vaccines:

To learn more, check out these resources: