U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Get Your Pre‑teen’s Shots on Schedule

The Basics

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.

  • Tdap booster
    This shot protects against tetanus ("TET-nes"), diphtheria ("dif-THEER-ee-ah"), and whooping cough (pertussis). It's a single shot that's given to pre-teens ages 11 or 12. Learn more about the Tdap shot.
  • MCV4
    This shot protects against types of meningococcal disease, including meningitis ("men-in-JY-tis"). Meningitis is a very serious infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Learn more about the MCV4 shot.
  • HPV shots
    These shots protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause several types of cancer. The HPV vaccine is given in 3 shots over 6 months, starting at age 11 or 12. Learn more about HPV shots.
  • Yearly flu shot
    Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect against the flu.

Why does my child need these shots?
Shots protect your child from serious, even deadly, 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.
  • HPV can cause some types of cancers later in life.

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

It’s important for every child to get shots.
The bacteria and viruses (germs) that cause serious childhood diseases are still around. Each person who isn’t vaccinated can spread those germs to other people.

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 before doctors start giving them to people. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks vaccines every year to make sure they are safe. The risk of harm from shots is very small.

Take Action!

Take Action!

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 Tdap, MCV4, and HPV 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 Tdap and MCV4 shots for pre-teens before they start school.

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, 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 provider 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.

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 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.

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