Vaccines are important all year long, but especially as students of all ages go back to school or college.

While most parents are aware of the vaccinations needed for their child to start school as a kindergartener, it is important to remember that college students need to be vaccinated, too.  The recent cases of mumps, chicken pox, and meningitis on Iowa college campuses illustrate the importance of vaccines to protect young adults. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) stated that some immunizations, like the Tdap, which protects against pertussis, can wane over time and so it may need to be boosted; some, like HPV, may have never been received; and others, like the flu vaccine, need to be given yearly.

Parents of college-aged students should talk to their health care provider about these vaccines specifically recommended for young adults ages 19 through 26:

  • First-year college students living in residence halls are recommended to be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine. If they had already received this vaccine before their 16th birthday, they should get a booster dose before going to college for maximum protection.
  • Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine are recommended (and often required) for all incoming college freshmen.
  • Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). A single dose of Tdap is routinely recommended for preteens and teens (preferably at age 11-12 years); however, adults 19 or older who did not receive Tdap as a preteen or teen should receive a single dose of Tdap.
  • HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancers, and can cause cancer in males. HPV vaccination is recommended for teens and young adults who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series at age 11 or 12 years. Young women under age 27 and young men under age 22 should be vaccinated. Even if it has been many years since a first or second dose of HPV vaccine, young adults should still complete the HPV vaccination series. The HPV vaccine series does not need to be restarted even if there is a long gap in between doses.
  • Seasonal flu vaccine protects against up to four flu viruses that are likely to circulate in Iowa during the upcoming flu season. The flu can cause severe illness that may require hospital care, even in healthy adults.
  • Two doses of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine are recommended for all college-age adolescents and adults born after 1980. Only those with a reliable history of chickenpox or shingles disease, or laboratory evidence of immunity to varicella, do not need to receive two doses of varicella vaccine.

To learn more about all the recommended vaccines for young adults and college students, visit