Adolescence is an important time to have vaccines due to an increased risk of exposure to some diseases as well as the decrease in previous immunity gained from childhood vaccines.
Some teenagers may have missed immunisations in childhood and may require a catch-up schedule to make sure they are protected. To find out more, chat to your GP or immunisation provider.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
HPV is a virus that is most commonly sexually transmitted and can cause genital warts and some cancers, like cervical cancer. Up to 90% of the population will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. Most HPV infections have no clinical symptoms, meaning people can transmit the virus without knowing.
For the best protection, it is important that HPV vaccines are administered before coming into contact with the virus through sexual activity.
HPV vaccines are offered to year 7 students (aged 12-14 years) as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection. Symptoms of meningococcal can include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache or neck stiffness. A distinct purple rash is often present. It can lead to brain or spinal cord inflammation (meningitis), blood infection (septicaemia) and lung infections (pneumonia). Symptoms can progress quickly and lead to death within hours.
Teenagers (along with children < 2 years) are at the highest risk of meningococcal disease.
Prevention through vaccination is the most effective way to provide protection. Meningococcal ACWY vaccines are offered to year 10 students (aged 15-16 years) through the NIP. Meningococcal B vaccines are also available and highly recommended but are not funded as part of the NIP. They are available via your local immunisation provider.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can cause a range of symptoms, from mild respiratory symptoms, to more serious disease with lung infections (pneumonia), organ failure or death. Long COVID can also occurs where symptoms continue for weeks or months after the initial diagnosis. These symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, chest pains or gastrointestinal symptoms.
Overall, teenagers experience milder symptoms of COVID-19 disease compared with adults, however infection occurs at similar rates. There are certain medical conditions that can increase the risk of severe disease in adolescents, such as obesity, Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21), immunosuppressive conditions, cancers, diabetes, respiratory illnesses like asthma and cystic fibrosis, heart disease or disabilities. Immunising against COVID-19 protects against severe disease and hospitalisation, particularly for those who are at higher risk.
It is also important to consider the other benefits of protection when considering vaccination. Teenagers have experienced significant disruptions to schooling, social activities and impacts on mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immunising them is a safe and effective way to provide protection and limit the need for further isolation due to infection.
Flu is a highly contagious respiratory virus that can sometimes lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death in otherwise healthy people.
Yearly flu vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect all teenagers against flu disease and its complications.
Teenagers who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or who have underlying medical conditions (like cardiac disease or severe asthma) can receive free flu vaccines.
Other teenagers can access flu vaccines from their GP, pharmacist or local council for a small fee.