ally spread through contaminated food
and water. It can lead to liver failure and
blood, kidney and pancreatic disorders.
The vaccine is not required for public
school children. It is recommended for
people with chronic liver disease and
those with plans to travel to a country
where there is a high risk of contracting
PRETEENS, TEENS AND
Protects against: Meningococcal
First dose: At age 11
Total doses: Two
THE MENINGOCOCCAL CONJUGATE vaccine protects against bacteria that can
cause bacterial meningitis as well as
blood infections. In the United States,
about 1,000 people each year get meningococcal disease. Bet ween 10 and 15 percent of those cases result in death. Some
survivors suffer devastating effects such
as the loss of limbs, permanent deafness
and various problems with their nervous systems. People ages 16 through 21
are at high risk for contracting the disease, which is why many colleges and
universities require freshmen to get vaccinated.
Protects against: Human papillomavirus
First dose: Age 11 or 12
Total doses: Three
THE HPV VACCINE PROTECTS against
the most common sexually transmitted
disease, the human papillomavirus. The
virus can be exchanged through close
contact, not necessarily intercourse.
About 40 strains of the virus exist; however, the vaccine covers the four most
dangerous ones. The virus can cause
genital warts and various kinds of cancer in both men and women. Since HPV
has been most commonly linked to cervical cancer, the vaccine, approved in
2006, was at first only marketed toward
females. However, it is now also recom-
mended for males. There are two avail-
able brands: Gardasil can be given to
males and females; Cervarix is only for
The vaccine is recommended for children around the age of 12, but also teens
and males and females in their early 20s.
It is most effective if a person receives it
before becoming sexually active; however, since HPV is a sexually transmitted
disease, the vaccine has been met with
resistance and the rate of vaccination nationwide has lagged. In the United States,
33 percent of all females and 7 percent of
all males are vaccinated. In New Jersey,
32 percent of all females are vaccinated.
The number of males vaccinated in New
Jersey was not available at press time.
According to the CDC, vaccination rates
would be much higher if the vaccine was
given routinely with other inoculations.
“The big question is the timing,” says
Kintiroglou. Parents are concerned that
by allowing their tweens and young teens
to receive the vaccine they might be implying it is permissible to have sex. Kintiroglou adds that parents and guardians
should have a serious conversation with
their kids about sex and point out that the
vaccine protects against only one kind of
In New Jersey, the vaccine is not required; however, public schools distribute information about HPV to the parents and guardians of students in grades
7 through 12.
Protects against: Varicella zoster virus
First dose: After age 60
Total doses: One
ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD chicken
pox are at risk for shingles. Shingles is
caused by the same virus, which lives
dormant in the nerve endings. “As you
get older, or whenever your immunity
is compromised, shingles can flare up,”
says Dr. Tank. Shingles is known for
its rash, which looks like small blisters
and can feel like burning. “The most debilitating thing about it is the pain that
comes with shingles, even after the rash
is gone,” says Tank. The pain is caused by
the inflammation of the nerve endings.
“It can affect your quality of life and take
you away from doing your day-to-day activities,” she says.
The vaccine doesn’t prevent adults
from getting shingles. “It reduces the duration of the shingles and it reduces the
intensity,” says Tank. Even people who
have had shingles should get the vaccine.
“Just because you’ve already had shingles
doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get it
again,” says Tank.
The vaccine contains a weak live virus, so recipients may get a mild form of
Protects against: Pneumococcal bacteria
First dose: After age 65
Total doses: One
THE PPSV SHO T, OR pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, protects against 23
strains of pneumococcal bacteria, which
can cause serious conditions like bacteremia, a blood infection, or bacterial meningitis. Patients who get the PCV injection as children should still get the PPSV
shot after age 65, says Tank. The elderly,
whose immune systems might not be as
robust as they once was, are particularly
vulnerable to pneumonia, and the shot
helps. “It doesn’t prevent it completely,”
says Tank, “but it does decrease the severity.” ■ I L L