Age Groups and Vaccines: Adolescents

Preparing for vaccines

By adolescence, your child has received several vaccines, but it probably still doesn’t feel entirely comfortable watching them get more. Most likely your child has not had a negative experience before, and that is likely to be the case again. If your adolescent has had a negative experience previously, be sure to discuss that event with the doctor before it is time for the next vaccine to be given.

Because some adolescents have a tendency to faint, it is recommended that they remain seated or lie down during vaccine administration and remain at the office for about 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.

Remember that your adolescent will take the lead from you. If you are feeling comfortable that this is an important and necessary thing to do, your child will also be more comfortable.

To prepare yourself

  • Bring your child’s immunization record to the visit with you.
  • Write down any questions you have, and bring the list with you to the visit. You can also use the free Vaccines on the Go mobile app for recording your questions (In the “Connect” section under “Save notes or questions”).
  • Be sure to ask vaccine-related questions before the office staff comes in with the vaccine. Usually, vaccines are given after a physical exam and discussion with the parents and the adolescent.
  • Read the Vaccine Information Sheets and any other materials that the office staff provides to you.

To prepare your adolescent

  • Check with your child’s doctor about giving a non-aspirin pain reliever.
  • Engage your child in a conversation.
  • You may want to have the office staff rub an alcohol pad on the opposite hand or arm immediately before giving the shot. Right when the shot is ready to be given, have your child blow on the alcohol-swabbed spot. The action of blowing on the alcohol will produce a feeling of cold that will lessen the sensation of pain. It will also help your child to think about something else and feel more like she is in control. Some healthcare professionals will help with this by asking the patient for help and describing what to do.
  • Encourage your child to relax their muscles and take a few short deep breaths then a few longer breaths while getting the shots. Suggest that it may be better to look away while the shots are given.

Remember, taking your children to get vaccines is an act of love. You are protecting them from something much worse than the pain of the vaccine.

After the vaccines

When you get home, realize that your child may be more tired than usual. They may be sore where the shot was given. Try to be patient and understanding and provide comfort to your child. You can also administer a pain reliever if directed by the doctor. If the area where the shot was given is red, tender or swollen, you can use a cool wet cloth on the area. If your child has a fever, have them take a cool shower or bath. Give your child plenty of fluids, and be aware that they may be less interested in food over the next 24 hours.

Watch for signs of a reaction from the vaccine including a rash, prolonged fever, or unusual behaviors. If you have any reason for concern, call your child’s doctor who can tell you what to expect and what to do.

While most side effects are minor, if your child has a severe reaction, you or the doctor can file a report to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System or VAERS.

A vaccine issue for this age group: Parents are not always informed about recommended vaccines

In 2015, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that 16- to 18-year-olds receive a vaccine that protects against one type of meningococcus, known as meningococcus B. Because this vaccine may not be required in your state, your physician may not recommend that your adolescent receive it. But you should still consider having your child get it because it will protect them against a potentially serious type of meningococcus.

What is the difference between a recommendation and a requirement?

When the CDC and its experts decide that a vaccine is safe and useful, they make recommendations related to its use.

A requirement is usually enforced by school entry laws, unless a parent claims an exemption. Requirements are determined at the state level.

Other resources

Reviewed by Paul A. Offit, MD on May 20, 2020

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.