5 reasons your tween should get the HPV vaccine

January 18, 2016 | by Jonathan Gibson, M.D.

As parents, we try to cover all the bases when it comes to protecting our kids.

We don’t let them leave the house on a bitter cold day without a heavy coat. We teach them to avoid strangers and not to play with dangerous things like matches.

We protect them from deadly diseases like polio and whooping cough with vaccines. We should also vaccinate them against human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV infects nearly everyone and can cause cancer.  Anyone who has been sexually active can contract HPV.  The virus is so common, most people contract HPV soon after they become sexually active. You can get HPV even if you’ve had only one sexual partner.

If most people contract HPV and it usually goes away on its own in two years, why should your tween get the HPV vaccine?

Here are five reasons:

The HPV shot is a cancer vaccine. Human papillomavirus, a common virus spread through sex, can cause genital warts and several kinds of cancer, including throat and cervical cancer.

It works best before you’re sexually active. Getting this vaccine before one becomes sexually active could provide complete protection from this common virus. If you already have the virus, the vaccine will not get rid of it. The Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control recommend that boys and girls receive it as part of their routine immunizations starting around age 11 or 12 (but kids as young as 9 years old can safely receive it).

The vaccine won’t influence your child to have sex. It protects them from cancer.

The HPV vaccine is safe.  The chances that the HPV vaccine (or any vaccine) will make you sick are slim. If anything, your child may experience mild side effects like redness or pain at the injection site, dizziness or a headache. The Food and Drug Administration studied, tested and licensed the vaccines.

The HPV vaccine works. According to the CDC, in the four years after the vaccine was first recommended (in 2006), the number of HPV infections in teen girls decreased by 56 percent. Research has also shown that fewer teens are getting genital warts since HPV vaccines have been in use.

The vaccine comes in three doses over a six-month period—the second dose 1-2 months after the first, the third dose 6 months later. While it’s best to start the series of shots young and follow the recommended timeline, females may still get the vaccine through age 26 and males through age 21, whether they stopped after one shot or didn’t have any shots. You would not have to repeat any previous injections.

Talk to your pediatrician about the HPV vaccine and protect your children from life-threatening disease.

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