NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Vaccines for Teens

August 20, 2003

Most parents of young children know that vaccines for toddlers are important, but few realize that there are many vaccines for diseases that strike older children and teens.

By the end of the decade, at least four new vaccines will be available for adolescents: a booster shot for whooping cough, an improved meningococcal vaccine and vaccines for herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV). Experts say that the vaccines will face barriers to their acceptance:

  • Only 5 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds see a doctor regularly.
  • Some parents may hesitate to permit vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which must be administered before a teen's first sexual contact.
  • Because of high research and development costs, new vaccines are expected to cost $50 or more per dose.
  • The vaccine for meningococcal meningitis costs $65-80 per dose, but only 2,500 people are affected by the disease each year.

Even if some vaccines aren't considered cost-effective, parents should be informed of new vaccines and allowed to choose the ones they deem necessary for their children, many health officials say.

For example, a growing number of states now require colleges to inform their freshmen about meningitis and its vaccine. New York just passed a law requiring overnight camps to provide the information as well.

Sources: Anita Manning, "Vaccines Cycling to Teens," and "Parents don't often get vaccine info," USA Today, July 29, 2003.

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