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Vaccines for College Students


By Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE

It’s the time of year when our high school graduates are getting ready to attend college in the fall, and we’re racing to take them to the doctor for their school physicals and necessary vaccines. The following are 4 vaccine areas emphasized and recommended for college students and young adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
    • Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Young adults in dormitory-like living conditions are at a higher risk for meningococcal disease, including meningitis. Infection with this organism is almost always serious and can become fatal quickly.
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine
    • Recent widespread outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) have highlighted the importance of all young adults who have not received a dose of Tdap to receive this vaccine prior to college. This is in addition to the 4-dose primary vaccination series that occurs in early childhood. If this primary vaccination series did not occur, the full series should be discussed with your physician.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine
    • HPV vaccine protects against the viruses that cause cervical cancer, anal cancers, and genital warts. Quadrivalent HPV4 vaccine is licensed for use in both males and females. A complete series consists of 3 doses. The second dose is administered 1-2 months after the first dose, and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose.
  • Influenza vaccine
    • The CDC recommends seasonal influenza vaccines for all adults. College students may require additional vaccinations if they travel abroad for spring break or study abroad programs. The CDC recommends that college students check with their local health department or family physician 6-8 weeks prior to travel in order to determine whether any vaccinations are needed.

This article is not intended to take the place of a professional medical examination. Please see your health care provider to discuss your concerns.

Kathy Sinkin is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


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