The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects about 27 percent of the female population ages 14 to 19, and 50 percent of the population ages 20 to 24. The virus has several different strands all of which carry varying degrees of risk. Basically, almost everyone will be exposed to it at some point.
It is important, while getting your child’s vaccinations, to get the HPV vaccine as well. I talk to a lot of parents, and many have concerns about it. The most common question I hear is “Why does my child need this when they’re only 11 or 12?”
This age is recommended because it has been revealed that the body and immune system respond well to the vaccine early. Research has proven that it is crucially important for people to be vaccinated against HPV before they are sexually active, so the 11 to 12 year range is an ideal time for children to be vaccinated.
Another concern I frequently hear is that getting the vaccine will encourage early sexual activity; however, studies show there is no difference in the start of sexual activity between teens who have been given the vaccine versus teens who haven’t. There is also no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility, which is another concern I have heard parents express.
A Safeguard Against 9 Types of HPV
The HPV vaccine protects against nine types of HPV – these types cause the majority of cases of genital warts. It also helps protect against most oral, cervical, anal and penile cancers. This is why it’s also so important for boys to be vaccinated – so much of what we hear about the vaccine is that it protects against cervical cancer, and that’s true, but it also protects against diseases that could affect boys, such as certain types of cancer.
The HPV vaccine, commonly known as Gardasil, consists of two shots:
- One administered at your child’s checkup at age 11 or 12.
- The second administered six months following the first shot.
If your child wasn’t vaccinated at 11 or 12, that’s fine – boys up to 21 and girls up to 26 can still receive the vaccine.
The risks associated with the HPV vaccine are pain at the injection site and slight fever.
Do you have questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine? Leave a comment below and get involved in the discussion!
Dr. Jessica Lanerie is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s new Sienna Plantation Clinic. After receiving her medical degree from Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Medicine in 2013, Dr. Lanerie completed a residency in Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in 2016. Her clinical interests include weight management, asthma, and eczema.