Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

Learn more
View alerts close
The vaccines your middle schooler needs
June 25, 2024
Pre-teen girl walking with nurse and mom

    If you have a rising 7th grader, you haven’t had to think about school vaccines for several years – but there are a few required before they can return to a Virginia classroom in a couple months.

    “Vaccines are one of the best lines of defense we have against many infections and diseases that pose serious health risks,” said Dr. Stephanie Crewe, adolescent medicine physician. “These requirements for children entering 7th grade are designed to boost their immunity to conditions for which they were immunized when they were younger and protect against conditions that begin to pose greater risks as they age.”

    Three essential vaccines for preteens

    Tdap – tetanus (“lockjaw”), diphtheria and pertussis (“whooping cough”)

    This booster protects kids from three conditions that can lead to serious health problems. Babies receive the DTaP vaccine series as part of the normal immunization schedule to develop immunity. The Tdap booster around age 11 provides continued protection. Tdap has reduced doses of the diphtheria and pertussis components than what was provided initially in DTaP.

    Tetanus is an infection of the nervous system caused by bacteria in the environment. The bacteria most commonly enter the body through wounds, like when skin is punctured by stepping on a nail. It can cause tightening of muscles, especially in the jaw. It can also lead to painful stiffness throughout the body, muscle spasms, seizures, difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, and abnormal blood pressure and heart rate. 

    Diphtheria is another serious bacterial infection, typically impacting the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. Unlike tetanus, diphtheria is highly contagious via coughing and sneezing. Once the toxins enter the upper respiratory tract, they can spread throughout the body causing breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and even death.

    Pertussis, or whooping cough, is also a highly contagious infection. Bacteria attach to the tiny hair-like structures in the upper respiratory tract and release toxins, causing damage and inflammation. It results in a hacking cough and gasping for air, making a “whoop” sound. Coughing fits can last several weeks and cause difficulty breathing, even leading to pneumonia in some cases.


    This is the first of a two-dose vaccine series to protect against bacterial infections of the lining of the brain/spinal cord and bloodstream. The second dose should be given before entering 12th grade, or after the age of 16. Meningococcal disease – including meningitis and blood infections – can cause permanent disabilities and be life-threatening if not identified and treated quickly (within a matter of hours). The bacteria is spread through throat secretions such as when coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing cups/utensils and being in close proximity with others for an extended period of time.


    The two-dose human papillomavirus vaccine is recommended for preteens because this is the age when the body can generate the most effective immune response to protect against diseases and cancers caused by HPV later in life. The first dose should be given before beginning 7th grade, followed by the second dose 6-12 months later. If the first dose is given after age 15, three doses will be needed.

    Summer has a way of disappearing quickly, so be sure to schedule an appointment with your health care provider for these shots. Don’t forget to get your kids’ school and sports physicals on the calendar too!

    Looking for school vaccine information for your kindergartener or 12th grader? Find it here.

    Keep up with the latest news, knowledge and healthy fun for kids of all ages.

    Subscribe to our blog

    Sign Up