We are all familiar with childhood immunizations, you know…those shots you had as a baby but can’t remember exactly what they were or if you have a record of them.
Now there are some other vaccines to think about in the teenage years (ages 11-19).
Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can cause short-term illness (loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle, joint and stomach pain, jaundice, diarrhea and vomiting), or long-term chronic illness such as liver damage, liver cancer and death. This vaccine was considered the first anti-cancer vaccine because it could prevent a form of liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person. Infection can be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, sharing needles when injecting illegal drugs, being stuck with a needle on the job, or during childbirth when the virus passes from an infected mother to her baby. About 1/3 of people who are infected in the U.S. do not know how they were infected.
The vaccine schedule is two doses between ages 11-15 separated by 4-6 months. If given earlier or later then those ages, then there are 3 doses. After the first dose, another dose is given 1-2 months later, then 4-6 months after the first dose.
Do NOT get Hepatitis B vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction to Baker’s yeast or a reaction to a previous dose of Hepatitis B vaccine.
Side effects can be soreness at the injection site, mild fever, and rarely serious reaction, trouble breathing, hives, weakness, dizziness or increased heart rate.
Gardasil is a vaccine that helps protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It protects against 4 strains of this virus, but these strains are the ones that cause cervical cancer, cervical, vaginal or vulvar lesions and genital warts. It prevents these diseases, but does not treat them. It is recommended for girls and women ages 9 through 26 years of age who have not had sex.
How common is this infection? The CDC estimated at least 50% of sexually active people get HPV during their lifetime. Anyone who takes part in any kind of sexual activity that involves genital contact is at risk. You still need pap smears from your health practitioners since this vaccine does not protect you from the other 90-100 strains of HPV out there. You may benefit from this vaccine if you already have HPV because many people are not infected by the four types of HPV contained in the vaccine.
After the first dose is given, the second dose is 2 months later. The third dose is 6 months after the first dose. Hepatitis B and Gardasil are probably safe given together but I prefer to separate vaccines to not overload the immune system.
This vaccine should not be given to anyone who is allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine (aluminum, polysorbate 80) or had a reaction after receiving the first dose.
Side effects can include pain, swelling, itching and redness at the injection site or fever. Difficulty breathing is rare. The price for these 3 vaccines is about $500.00. Many insurance companies will cover this vaccine. This may be a small price to pay to prevent cervical cancer. By the way, this HPV vaccine is not just for girls. Boys can also get this vaccine to prevent the transmission of this virus to their partners. Even though the incidence of genital cancer for males is uncommon, it is still a social responsibility that I believe parents can make for their children to help prevent the transmission of this vaccine to girls that may not be vaccinated.
As you can see these vaccines are best given before teens become sexually active. I like to talk about these vaccines when girls come to see me for their school or camp physicals and we discuss school, boys, high-risk behavior and the need for birth control.
Other vaccines include Tdap, Hepatitis A, Varicellla if you have not already had chicken pox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and meningococcal when you enter high school or college.
For more information, contact http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/11teens8.pdf.