Why are vaccines important for your pre-teen

As parents of pre-teens know, starting Grade 7 is a big transition for the entire family.  The move to high school and early adulthood is just around the corner and there are many things parents can do to make sure our children are prepared for that next stage in life. Getting your child vaccinated against some serious diseases is one of the most important things you can do.

When my eldest daughter Mallory was in Grade 7, she received the hepatitis B vaccine at school.  Within just a few years the immunization program in Ontario was expanded and my other daughter Erica was offered the hepatitis B vaccine and the meningococcal vaccine (Menactra).  As a mother, I was happy they added the extra coverage that would help protect Erica from dangerous infections like meningitis C.  A few years before, I had paid for Mallory, now in Grade 10, to receive the vaccine at a Halton Region community clinic.  Participating in the school-based program was so much more convenient – and free.

Even though I know that vaccines are important to protect my children, it was also important we discussed it as a family.  I talked about the reasons for getting immunized in Grade 7 with both my girls, and they told me they understood.  Together we looked through the information packages and consent forms sent home through school by the Halton Region Health Department.

Here are some things we talked about:

The teenage years are times when young people may be exposed to more risk of infection.  It is important to get protection before being exposed and not after.

  • Meningococcal diseases (like meningitis C) are serious and life-threatening.  They can be spread through simple contact with saliva – like sharing a drink or lip gloss.
  • Hepatitis B can be spread through body/ear piercing or tattooing with infected equipment.
  • Many different careers, school programs, and workplaces require proof of Menactra and hep B vaccinations
  • Although no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, the Menactra and hep B vaccines are considered effective and safe

At age 12, I found Mallory was able to reason about the pros and cons of the choice to vaccinate.  I also tried to provide some easy-to-use strategies to help her cope with her fear of needles.  When Erika was in Grade 7, we decided that she would listen to music and take deep breaths when it was her turn to get the vaccines.

If you have a child starting Grade 7 in the fall, you can expect to receive the information package and consent forms. Consider taking some time over the summer to talk with your child about the Grade 7 school clinics – it worked well for my family.

If your child is currently in Grade 7 and missed the vaccinations this past fall, you should have recently received a package from your school.  This package includes fact sheets and consent forms for the remaining 2012 school clinics.  These forms must be returned to the health department by March 19, 2012.  For questions or to make other arrangements dial 311 to contact the Halton Region Health Department.

Do you have questions or concerns about the vaccines?  If so, you can visit the Halton Region Vaccines 4 Pre-teens webpage for more information.  You can also talk to your family physician about the risks and benefits associated with these vaccines.

Share your experience:

For more tips and hints about vaccines, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About this guest blogger:

Sonja Gallant is a Registered Nurse who has worked with the Halton Region Health Department’s Communicable Disease Control Services Team for the past 8 years.  She is a mother of three and has worked as a Registered Nurse in a variety of healthcare setting for 17 years.  Sonja is also Certified in Infection Control through The Certification Board of Infection Control & Epidemiology, Inc. (CBIC).

This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Parenting Your Child/Tween and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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