What Are Vaccines?

Vaccines protect your body from dangerous and possibly deadly diseases.

(Courtesy of Immunize For Good)

Why Do I Need Vaccines?

Vaccines protect you from serious and life-threatening diseases. As you get older, some of the vaccinations you got as a child begin to wear off so you need a booster to keep you protected. Changes in your behavior increase your exposure to certain diseases. Vaccines also protect the people around you who are not able to get vaccinated. To learn the top 10 reasons why you should get vaccinated, click here.

What Vaccines Do I Need?

  • When you are 11-12 years old, you will need the Tdap, meningococcal conjugate and HPV vaccines.
  • When you are 16 years old, you will need another meningococcal conjugate vaccine as a booster.
  • You need a flu vaccine every year.
  • You may need other vaccines to stay healthy, especially if you are traveling. For more information, click here.

Tdap Vaccine

What diseases does the Tdap vaccine prevent?

Tdap vaccine protects you against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • TETANUS (tet-a-nus), also known as lockjaw, is caused by bacteria that enters your body through cuts, scratches, or wounds. It is not spread person-to-person. Tetanus causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness; you might not be able to open your mouth, swallow, or even breathe. For more information, click here.
  • DIPHTHERIA (dif-THEER-ee-a) is caused by bacteria and is spread person-to-person when an infected person coughs and sneezes.  It causes a thick coating to form in the back of your throat and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death. For more information, click here.
  • PERTUSSIS (per-TUS-iss), also known as whooping cough, is caused by highly contagious bacteria that is easily spread from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It causes rapid, uncontrollable coughing fits that can cause you to vomit, break ribs or have difficulty breathing and sleeping. For more information, click here. Hear what a cough from someone with pertussis sounds like here.


How can tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis be prevented?

The Tdap vaccine is the best way to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. When you are 11 or 12 years old, you need the Tdap vaccine.


Why is Tdap vaccine especially important for youth?

You probably received DTaP vaccine when you were younger, but the protection from that vaccination is wearing off. You need a booster shot of Tdap vaccine to help maintain your protection from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Pertussis can last weeks to months, causing you to miss school and other activities.


NJ Facts
  • In 2017, about 9 out of 10 New Jersey youths surveyed received one Tdap vaccine.
  • The goal is to have at least 8 out of 10 New Jersey youths vaccinated with Tdap vaccine by 2020.


HPV Vaccine

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is a group of viruses that commonly affects both boys and girls. Most of the time, the body can fight off HPV, but sometimes HPV can cause serious infection. There is no cure for HPV, but there are ways to treat the health problems caused by HPV such as genital warts and certain cancers. There is no way to know which people will develop cancer or other health problems. Prevention is better than treatment.

HPV Type Can Cause in Boys: Can Cause in Girls:

16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58

Types of Cancer:







Types of Cancer:







6, 11  

Genital Warts on:





In/around the anus

Genital Warts on:



In/around the anus



How do people get HPV?

About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. The virus can be spread during any type of sexual contact. HPV can be spread even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. It’s possible to get more than one type of HPV.  There is no test to find out a person’s “HPV status.” Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat. For more information, click here.


How can HPV be prevented?

HPV vaccine is the best way to prevent infections and HPV-related cancers. You will need two or three doses of the vaccine depending on your age and health conditions.  Those who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine.  Adolescents who have certain health conditions or who start the vaccine series at 15 years of age or older will need three doses.  It’s important that you get all doses in the series so that you are fully protected. For more information, click here.


Why is HPV vaccine especially important for youth?

  • HPV infection is most common in teens and people in their early 20s.
  • You should be completely vaccinated before you are exposed to HPV. Even if you aren’t having sex, you may be engaging in behaviors that can expose you to HPV.
  • It’s the best time to get vaccinated for HPV because your body’s immune system produces a better response to protect against infection.


NJ Facts
  • Every 20 minutes, 1 person in the US gets a cancer caused by HPV.
  • The goal is to have at least 8 out of 10 New Jersey youths vaccinated with all recommended* doses of HPV vaccine by 2020.
New Jersey Girls
  • In 2017, about 7 out of 10 New Jersey girls surveyed received 1 dose of HPV.
  • In 2017, about 5 out of 10 New Jersey girls surveyed received all recommended* doses of HPV.
  • The goal is to have at least 8 out of 10, New Jersey girls vaccinated with all recommended* doses of HPV vaccine by 2020.
New Jersey Boys
  • In 2017, about 6 out of 10 of New Jersey boys surveyed received 1 doses of HPV.
  • In 2017, about 5 out of 10 of New Jersey boys surveyed received all recommended* doses of HPV.
  • The goal is to have at least 8 out of 10, New Jersey boys vaccinated with all recommended* doses of HPV vaccine by 2020.

pmw3 hpv graphic


*The CDC and ACIP recommendation regarding the recommended number of doses was updated on October 19, 2016. For more information, click here.

(PMW3 2012 winner Kiefer Wilson)

Meningococcal Vaccine

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal (muh-nin-jo-cok-ul) disease is a serious bacterial infection. The disease may result in inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (Meningococcal meningitis) and/or a serious blood infection (Meningococcal septicemia).  Meningococcal disease can become deadly in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment, 10-15% of people die.  Others have long-term complications such as brain damage, learning problems, skin scarring, hearing loss, and loss of arms and/or legs.


What are common symptoms of meningococcal disease?

  • Confusion
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Fever and chills
  • In later stages, a dark purple rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck

For more information, click here.


How do people get meningococcal disease?

The bacteria are spread from person-to-person through the exchange of saliva (spit), coughs, and sneezes. The bacteria are not as contagious as the common cold or flu and does not spread by casual contact or breathing the air where a person who is sick has been. You must be in direct (close) contact with an infected person’s secretions to be exposed.

Examples of close contact include:

  • Kissing
  • Sharing anything that comes into contact with the mouth (drinking glasses, smoking materials, eating utensils, cosmetics, or lip balm)
  • Living in the same house
  • Sleeping in the same residence (sleepovers)

About 1 out of 10 people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat, but don’t get sick. These people are known as carriers. Although carriers do not have any signs or symptoms, they can still spread the bacteria and make others sick.


How can meningococcal disease be prevented?

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease. The vaccine protects against four of the five types of bacteria (A, C, W, Y) that cause almost all cases of meningococcal disease worldwide. The first dose is routinely administered when you are 11-12 years old. When you are 16 years old, you will need a booster shot.

There is a different vaccine to prevent against meningococcal type B disease.  To learn more, click here.


Why is meningococcal conjugate vaccine especially important for youth?

Although meningococcal disease is uncommon, teens and young adults 16 through 23 years old are at increased risk. Meningococcal disease is a serious infection and can result in permanent disabilities and even death.


NJ Facts
  • In 2017, about 9 out of 10 New Jersey youths surveyed have received the first dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
  • In 2017, about 4 out of 10 17-year-olds  surveyed in the US received the second dose (booster dose) of meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
  • By 2020, the goal is to have at least 8 out of 10 New Jersey youths vaccinated with at least one dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine.


pmw3 men graphic


(Courtesy of Shot by Shot) – Kaela’s Story

More information is available from Voices of Meningitis, click here.

Flu Vaccine

What is influenza?

Influenza or “flu” is a highly contagious (easily spread) respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. As many as 35.6 million people get sick with the flu each year.

Symptoms include:

  • body aches
  • coughs
  • fever/chills
  • headaches
  • sore throat

Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. Young children, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease), and people 65 and older are at increased risk. Each year, more than 700,000 hospitalizations and as many as 56,000 deaths occur in the U.S. from flu-related complications.




How do people get the flu?

You can get the flu from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, talk, or by touching a surface that has flu virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Infected people can spread the flu a day before they feel sick and for about a week after symptoms begin.


How can the flu be prevented?

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year if you are 6 months old or older. In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter, but can sometimes last until May. It’s important to get vaccinated soon after vaccine becomes available in your community.


Why is the flu vaccine especially important for youth?

  • Protection from last year’s flu vaccine wears off, so to be fully protected you need to be vaccinated for the current flu season.
  • The flu can be very serious, even for healthy youth, and especially for youth with certain health conditions like asthma or diabetes.
  • If you get the flu, you could miss one to two weeks of school and activities. Some youth have painful complications like sinus infections, ear infections, or pneumonia.
  • By getting a flu vaccination, you protect yourself and your friends, grandparents, parents, and siblings from potentially life-threatening diseases.


NJ Facts
  • During the 2017-2018 flu season, about 6 out of 10 New Jersey youths surveyed received the flu vaccine.
  • The goal is to have at least 7 out of 10, New Jersey youths vaccinated with flu vaccine each year by 2020.

pmw3 flu graphic


Top 3 reasons you should get the flu vaccine every year:

  1. Protect yourself. While the flu may not seem like a big deal, it can be very serious for some youth, especially youth with certain health conditions. It is important to receive a flu vaccine every year. Read Martin’s Story.
  2. Be a Hero. When you are vaccinated against the flu, you can stop the spread of flu to people around you. The flu can be life threatening to babies and elders, so you can save a life by stopping the disease.
  3. Get better faster. Even if you do get the flu, it will be less severe, meaning you won’t feel as bad and it won’t last as long.


Test your knowledge on the flu here:

Other Vaccines

Everyone needs vaccines, including you!


There are now vaccines available to help prevent meningococcal disease caused by type B.  If you are 10 years old or older and at increased risk, it is recommended that you receive a MenB vaccination.  When you are 16-23 years old, you can receive a MenB vaccination (preferably at 16 through 18 years old), in addition to the routinely administered meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to help provide broader protection.  Ask your healthcare provider if you should receive this vaccine.

Travel Vaccines

Are you going to a different country for vacation, study abroad, a sports tournament or to volunteer? That’s great! But before you start packing, check CDC’s Travelers’ Health to see if you need additional vaccines to keep you healthy on your adventure.


There are several vaccines you need as you grow up. Sometimes things come up and you may have missed one. Click here to make sure you are up-to-date with all your vaccinations. Talk to your parents and healthcare provider if you think you might need any.


Want to learn more about the vaccines you need to stay healthy? Here are some sites with accurate information:




Meningococcal Disease





*The link to this website is intended to provide additional information pertaining to immunizations strictly for informational or educational purposes. The New Jersey Department of Health is not responsible for the content of this website and does not endorse private organizations.