Are You Ready for Back-to-School? A Vaccine Guide for Parents and Teens

Back-to-school is around the corner, and soon you will be shopping for school supplies, buying new clothes, and signing up for sports as you get ready for the school year. An integral part of back-to-school preparation is an annual healthcare checkup, and parents/teens need to know what vaccines they need. Certain vaccines are required for enrollment in school and sports as they act as a shield against various diseases and illnesses. They prevent teens from getting sick in school and help stop the spread of illness to peers. Review our guide of recommended adolescent immunizations, and click here to learn more about where to find your vaccine records!

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine 

The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 9-26 to help prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. This vaccine also helps prevent genital warts caused by HPV and is over 90% effective at preventing six HPV-related cancers including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and oral or throat cancers. Since HPV is transmitted through sexual activity, it is recommended the vaccine is given prior to a person becoming sexually active. Without vaccination, almost every sexually active person will get HPV.

Vaccine Recommendation: The HPV vaccine is given in two doses. The first dose is recommended to be administered at ages 11 or 12 (but can start at 9 years), and the second dose should be administered 6-12 months after this first dose.

Meningococcal serogroup A,C,W,Y and B vaccination 

Meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis, is a bacterial disease that can infect the brain and spinal cord, causing swelling and, in some cases, can be fatal. It can also infect the bloodstream, causing bleeding in the skin and organs. 

Vaccine Recommendation: There are several serogroups of meningococcal disease with multiple vaccines to address the most common serogroups. 

  • The meningococcal ACWY vaccine can help protect against meningococcal disease caused by serogroups A, C, W, and Y. This vaccine is given in two doses. The first dose should be administered at age 11 or 12, and the second should be administered at age 16.  
  • The meningococcal B vaccine is also a two-dose vaccine recommended for ages 16-18. 
  • You may be able to get one dose of the MenABCWY vaccine, approved by the FDA in October 2023, when both MenACWY and MenB vaccines are indicated at the same clinic visit. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccine is most appropriate for you.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) 

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 has adverse effects on one’s respiratory system, and, in some cases, can be fatal. 

Vaccine Recommendation: COVID-19 vaccination dosing and schedule recommendations vary based on whether an adolescent (ages 12-18) has or has not already been vaccinated against COVID-19. If still unvaccinated against COVID-19, adolescents can receive one dose of Moderna or Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine or two doses of Novavax 3-8 weeks apart. If previously vaccinated against COVID-19, adolescents can receive one dose of any updated (2023–2024 Formula) COVID-19 vaccine at least eight weeks after their most recent dose. It is recommended adolescents receive their COVID-19 vaccine doses seasonally, similar to the flu vaccine. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about your situation and what COVID-19 vaccines are best for you. 

Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine 

This vaccine, commonly known as Tdap, vaccinates against three diseases. 

  • Tetanus is a bacterial infection that causes painful muscle spasms, usually in the neck and jaw. Tetanus can be fatal as it interferes with one’s ability to breathe, but this infection can be easily avoided through vaccination. 
  • Diphtheria is also a bacterial disease that negatively impacts the nose and throat. Diphtheria causes a sore throat and a thick, gray matter covering the back of one’s throat, making breathing hard. 
  • Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be dangerous for infants. Pertussis causes a severe cough, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. 

Vaccine Recommendation: The Tdap vaccine can prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It’s recommended that adolescents receive a single dose of Tdap at age 11 or 12 and then a booster shot of Tdap every ten years in adulthood.  

Influenza Vaccine 

Influenza, also called the flu, is a common viral infection that impacts the lungs, nose, and throat. The flu is spread through respiratory droplets, and this sickness can be fatal for some people. 

Vaccine Recommendation: According to the CDC, anyone six months or older should receive their flu vaccine yearly. Adolescents should ensure they get into the routine of receiving these vaccines yearly, and these doses are usually obtained between October and February during flu season.  

How to Catch up on Needed Vaccines

Check out this table from the CDC website linked here. This schedule gives a more detailed overview of when these vaccines are recommended to be administered from ages 7 to 18. To learn more about the five vaccines described above, click here. Adolescents may need to catch up on some vaccines if they were skipped at previous checkups. Here are some action steps parents and adolescents can take to catch up on necessary immunizations and talk to your healthcare provider about the correct schedule for catching up on these vaccines:


  1. Find out your vaccine status. You may have received some of the recommended adolescent vaccinations, but not all. You may have started a two-dose series but have not completed the full dose. Talk to your parents or guardians about this, and click here to learn more.
  2. Schedule an appointment with your doctor, ask about vaccine recommendations, and receive any recommended vaccines. 
  3. Get involved with your school’s health clubs during the school year and learn more about immunization. Health or biology teachers may also be a great resource for this topic!


  1. You can find out your child’s vaccine status through their doctor or records you have held on to from past checkups.
  2. Start a conversation with your child about vaccination and discuss what immunizations they are due for before the school year starts.
  3. Schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor, ask what vaccine recommendations they have, and ensure your child receives the necessary doses.
  4. Ensure all school and extracurricular health documents are up-to-date before classes start. This is crucial, especially if your child participates in sports and other activities.

As the back-to-school season approaches, it’s essential to ensure that your healthcare needs are met alongside the usual flurry of shopping and preparation. Vaccinations play a critical role in safeguarding adolescents against various diseases, protecting their health, and preventing the spread of illnesses within the school community. From the HPV vaccine, preventing certain cancers, to the Tdap vaccine, guarding against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, each immunization serves as a vital shield. By staying informed about recommended vaccines and ensuring timely administration, both parents and adolescents can start the school year with confidence, knowing they’ve taken proactive steps to prioritize health and well-being. Remember, a healthy start to the school year begins with comprehensive immunization!

Posted in

Hanna Zeinstra

Hanna Zeinstra

Hanna is an Outreach and Development Intern with Unity Consortium. She is responsible for the development and execution of effective health promotion and communication strategies, as well as fostering connections with strategic partners across diverse fields.

Subscribe to Our Mailing List