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Vaccinations for the Whole Family

nurse applies a band aid to a teen girl's arm after a vaccination

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to fewer vaccines being given because routine check-ups have been postponed. As a new school year begins, it’s a good time to check if any family members are due for vaccinations.

Your pediatrician or family doctor, your child’s school system or college, and your local health department can help you figure out which vaccines are needed to keep your family up-to-date or to get them caught up on vaccine doses that might have been missed. And because the availability of in-person visits can vary by state, county, or city, they can help you safely plan for and schedule appointments to get needed vaccines.

Vaccination schedules

The CDC recommends a specific vaccine schedule for newborns, children, and teenagers to protect them from many serious diseases, including measles, whooping cough, and polio. Children and teens ages 7 to 18 also need booster shots for some vaccines. This group may also be more at risk for certain diseases such as meningitis and bloodstream infections, and need the protection certain vaccines can provide.

Grown-ups also need to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, not just for their own sake but also to keep the kids and the elderly adults around them healthy, too. The CDC recommends adult vaccination schedules for people ages 19 and up. Which vaccinations the adults in your family need depends on their age, lifestyle, health, travel, and vaccination history. The CDC says most adults may need vaccinations for the flu, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, diphtheria, shingles, and pneumonia. Some adults may also need vaccinated to protect against hepatitis A and/or B, HPV, chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Millions of children and adults are safely vaccinated each year. The most common side effects are typically mild, such as pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV infection is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer and 5 other types of cancer.

Both girls and boys should get the vaccine between ages 9 and 12. Older kids and young adults up to age 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or who have not gotten all of their doses should be vaccinated, too. See the full American Cancer Society recommendations for HPV vaccination.

Flu vaccines

The best way to keep from getting the flu is to get a flu shot (vaccination). The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every year, with a few exceptions.

People with certain medical conditions, including cancer, are at a higher risk for flu-related complications. That makes it even more important for cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers to get the seasonal flu vaccination. Cancer patients and survivors who think they have the flu, or have been near someone else who has it, should call their doctor right away. Doctors can’t cure the flu, but they can prescribe antiviral drugs and other medicines that help you feel better faster. If you’re in active treatment for cancer, check with your doctor before getting the flu shot.

For more information

The CDC has resources to help you get a personalized list of recommended vaccines. You can also download the CDC Vaccine Schedule app for your smartphone.

The American Cancer Society encourages you to ask your pediatrician or family doctor which vaccines are right for you and your family members, and about the importance of getting essential vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you or your child’s vaccines have been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can refer to the CDC information on vaccine schedule changes and guidance.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.