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 and your child 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. Find more info about considerations related to making kids comfortable with vaccines.

To prepare yourself

  • Bring your child’s immunization record to the visit with you, particularly if your child is getting vaccinated somewhere other than at their doctor’s office.
  • 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. Detailed questions can be discussed with your child’s primary care provider in advance of a visit to a vaccine clinic or pharmacy location. 
  • Read the Vaccine Information Sheets and any other materials that the office staff provides to you.

To prepare your adolescent

  • Talk to your child in advance of the visit about what to expect. This interactive guide from the CHOP Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy Department may help.
  • Consider using this CARD handout to ensure a more positive experience for your child. The CARD system encourages planning ahead to be prepared when it comes to Comforting your child, Asking questions, Relaxing yourself and your child, and Distracting your child if they are apprehensive.
  • Be honest with your child, explaining that it may hurt a bit, but it will not be for long. And the vaccine will keep them healthy.
  • Engage your child in a conversation.
  • 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, understanding and comforting. 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 ice on the area, and encourage ongoing movement of the arm. Give your adolescent plenty of fluids, and be aware that they may be less interested in food over the next 24 hours.

Because fevers are part of the immune response, treatment is most often not recommended. If you have questions, talk with your child’s doctor. Find out more about fevers on this Q&A sheet.

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. You can prepare best for your child’s visit by reviewing the vaccines recommended for your child’s age.

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 Lori Handy, MD, MSCE on April 24, 2023

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.