A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

6 vaccines to have before starting college

After high school graduation, young men and women take their first steps into adulthood. If they decide to further their education and enter college, technical school or university, it’s important to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

Vaccinations can help young adults

Photo of a female college student walking down a hallway

If you are heading off to college, it’s important to be up-to-date on your vaccinations.

Marshfield Clinic Health System Nurse Practitioner Chris Mueller recommends pre-college students receive six immunizations:  Meningitis, Influenza (yearly), Hepatitis B series, HPV, Tdap and COVID-19. He added many states require students to receive meningitis, Hepatitis B series and Tdap, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“These are most important when living in dorms and other shared spaces,” Mueller said. “When living in these type of environments it is easier to spread diseases and these vaccines assist in prevention.”

Meningococcal vaccination

Meningitis is a bacterial infection that typically lands students in the hospital and can have permanent disabling effects. Most meningococcal vaccinations are included in the childhood immunization series. However, there is a second (Serogroup B) that is given to prevent a certain type of meningitis.

“This is critical as this form of meningitis can lead to death within 24 hours,” Mueller said.

Tdap vaccination

Tdap vaccination is prevention against diphtheria. Diphtheria is another contagious bacterial disease that affects the respiratory system, including the lungs.

Diphtheria bacteria can be spread from person to person by someone’s cough or sneeze. CDC states that diphtheria can produce a toxin in the body making it difficult to breathe or swallow and may cause death.

HepB vaccination

Hepatitis B is a blood-born infection that can be spread through sexual activity. CDC states that Hepatitis B causes a flu-like illness with loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, rashes, joint pain and jaundice.

HPV vaccination

A vaccination that all students should have received at 11-12 years old is Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. HPV is an infection that affects about one in four people, and is responsible for nearly 26,000 new cancer cases each year.

In addition, Mueller said HPV vaccine is recommended to prevent genital warts and sexually transmitted infections.  CDC recommends 11- to 12-year olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Those who start the series later, ages 15-26, need three doses.

“This vaccine protects against four types of HPV 16 and 18, which account for 70% of cervical cancers,” he said. “HPV is also a leading risk factor for cancer of the mouth and throat.”

Influenza vaccination

A vaccine that adults and children should have annually is influenza vaccination. Everyone 6 months and older can get a flu vaccine each year.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads easily through a cough or sneeze and can cause mild to severe illness.

“Influenza is recommended to prevent lost days of class and those with pre-existing conditions from possible hospitalization or greater complications,” Mueller said.

COVID-19 vaccination

All individuals age 12 and over can get the COVID-19 vaccine. As a minor from 12-17, you must have parental consent to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

COVID-19 virus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“Again, living in shared spaces or attending large classrooms allows COVID-19 to spread,” Mueller said. “The vaccine can prevent this from happening and allow those gatherings without masks safely.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and spreading the virus. Protection continues at a high level for several months. Studies are ongoing to see how long the vaccine will prevent COVID-19.

Talk to your provider

Before you send your child off to college, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to receive the recommended vaccinations for school.

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