Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is joining the California Department of Public Health in recognizing Feb. 26-March 4 as Preteen Vaccine Week, and recommending all children be current on their immunizations.

Vaccines are one of the best ways to avoid serious and deadly diseases, and even help stop some types of cancer, the Health Department reports.

Preteen Vaccine Week focuses on protecting kids ages 11 and 12 against dangerous, vaccine-preventable diseases now and into adulthood.

Many adolescents may have missed out on important vaccines during the pandemic, putting them at risk for catching infectious diseases that can have devastating effects on their health.

After long and careful review by health experts and doctors, vaccines are known to be a safe and effective way to provide protection to children.

Ensuring kids stay up to date on recommended vaccinations protects children, families and community from serious, life-threatening illnesses.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can be given starting at age 9, protects against cancers caused by HPV. HPV is estimated to cause nearly 37,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S.

Preteens also need vaccines against whooping cough (Tdap) and meningitis (MenACWY), when they are 11-12 years old.

The COVID-19 vaccine, including the updated (bivalent) booster, is recommended to protect preteens against COVID19.

Incoming 7th-graders must provide proof of having received the whooping cough shot and two doses of chickenpox vaccine before starting school. Flu vaccine is also recommended for everyone 6 months or older, not just preteens and teens.

“If you haven’t done so already, ask your doctor about the vaccines recommended for your child at their preteen visit, plus a flu vaccination every year,” Paige Batson, deputy director for the Community Health Division, reminds parents.

Any child without insurance coverage should be able to get vaccinations without a financial burden, according to the Health Department. Under the Affordable Care Act, most health plans are required to cover CDC-recommended vaccines at all ages without charging a deductible or co-payment.

Parents can contact their health care provider or local health department for information about the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free vaccines to eligible kids.

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