Adolescence is an important time to consider the risk of vaccine preventable disease and the benefits of immunisation. By adolescence, immunity previously obtained from childhood vaccines can begin to decline and certain behaviours or risk factors can mean that individuals in this age group are vulnerable to other vaccine preventable diseases. As a result ‘booster’ doses of previous vaccines, as well as additional vaccines, are recommended. Many of these vaccines are offered for free on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) as part of the secondary school immunisation program (SSIP). Other recommended vaccines can be provided at cost.

Where to access vaccines

Council immunisation nurses coordinate the administration of NIP vaccines to secondary school students at school during school hours. These vaccines can also be obtained or through GP clinics. Accredited pharmacist immunisers can provide some NIP vaccines recommended in this age group (eg. meningococcal ACWY).

Other recommended vaccines can also be obtained at cost via some council-run immunisation sessions, GP clinics, pharmacies or state COVID-19 vaccine hubs.

Consent

Generally speaking, a parent, legal guardian or other medical treatment decision maker of a child (under the age of 18 years) can provide consent for vaccination on their behalf.

In some circumstances a child or adolescent may be determined as mature enough to understand the proposed procedure explained to them by a medical practitioner or experienced immuniser (Gillick competence). In these circumstances they may provide their own consent.

If a child or adolescent refuses a vaccination after valid consent has been provided, it is important to respect their wishes and withhold vaccination.

National Immunisation Program vaccines

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Up to 90% of the population will be infected with a human papillomavirus (HPV) strain within their lifetime. Most HPV infections have no clinical symptoms. This means that people infected with HPV often do not know they have it and can continue transmitting the virus to others. Strains of HPV are most commonly sexually transmitted.  Vaccination against HPV can prevent genital warts and cancers caused by the disease. HPV vaccines (Gardasil®9) are part of the SSIP, with a two-dose schedule (for immunocompetent individuals) administered in year 7 (12-14 years of age).

Diptheria-tetanus-pertussis

A primary course of diphtheriatetanuspertussis (DTPa) is administered in early childhood with a booster dose of dTpa recommended for adolescents in order to provide ongoing protection into adulthood. A single dose of dTpa (Boostrix®) is administered as part of the SSIP in year 7 (12-14 years of age).

Meningococcal ACWY

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. There are 13 known sub-types (serogroups) and of these, 5 are currently vaccine preventable (B and A, C, W, Y).

Meningococcal disease is most prevalent in children aged ≤ 2 years, however there is another peak in disease among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years. A single dose of meningococcal ACWY (Nimenrix®) is funded as part of the SSIP for adolescents in year 10 with a catch up program available for those who missed this dose (15-19 years). Those with special risk factors (eg. immune suppression or asplenia) are also recommended to receive additional doses of meningococcal ACWY.

Additional recommended vaccines

Meningococcal B

Serogroups B, C, W and Y account for the highest number of cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Australia, whilst a meningococcal ACWY vaccine is funded as part of the SSIP, meningococcal B vaccines (Bexsero® or Trumenba®) are not currently funded in the adolescent population, but are, however, strongly recommended.

COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all adolescents. This should be followed by an initial booster dose for all adolescents aged ≥ 16 years and a select group of 12-15 year olds, 3 months after the primary course. A further “winter” booster dose is also recommended for some individuals with increased risk of severe disease. Whilst adolescents have been shown to experience less severe COVID disease, infection rates in this age group have been shown to be similar to adults. Impacts on adolescents such as mental health harms and disruptions to socialisation and education should also be considered. Vaccinating adolescents against COVID-19 is recommended to prevent infection, severe disease and death, as well as long COVID and paediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome (PIMS-TS).

For further information refer to MVEC: COVID-19 vaccination in children and adolescents.

Influenza

Annual influenza vaccination is safe and strongly recommended for all adolescents. It is funded on the NIP for some at risk groups such as those with cardiac disease, severe asthma or diabetes. In 2022, some Australian states are also funding influenza vaccines for all individuals who usually do not meet the criteria for a funded dose. Those who are not funded to receive influenza vaccines and still wish to be vaccinated can purchase vaccines for a small fee.

Resources

Authors: Nigel Crawford (Director, SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Mel Addison (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Rachael McGuire (MVEC Education Nurse Coordinator)

Reviewed by: Rachael McGuire (MVEC Education Nurse Coordinator)

Date: August 30, 2022

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.