Why Your Teenager Needs to Get an HPV Shot
If you have a daughter or son who is entering their teen years, you need to make sure they get either a Cervarix or Gardasil HPV shot (Gardasil is the only HPV shot recommended for males and the only one that prevents genital warts). What is HPV? HPV, or Human Papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection spread by skin-to-skin contact. HPV can cause various oral and anogenital cancers in men and women, including virtually all cervical cancers. Most people who have HPV do not even know they have it.
Who Has HPV?
HPV is actually the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. 20 million Americans between 15 and 49 have HPV. Over half of all sexually active adults will get genital HPV at one point or another. Because the infection is usually dealt with fairly easily by the immune system, many people who get HPV never know they have it.
Vaccination Means Less Worry
You can’t eliminate all of the risks a teen might face in their life. The HPV vaccine won’t completely eliminate your child’s chance of infection but it will drastically reduce that risk, giving you less reason to worry. Even if your daughter or son does not have sex until marriage, they still can get infected with HPV, so the vaccine is for everyone.
When You Need to Get Your Child Vaccinated Against HPV
Vaccination drastically reduces the risk that HPV will develop into cervical and other cancers and genital warts (with the Gardasil vaccine). HPV vaccine is routinely recommended for all 11 and 12 year olds because it is important to protect them well before they are exposed to HPV and the vaccine has a stronger effect at these ages, compared to older adolescents.
When your child enters middle school, ask your primary care physician about the HPV vaccine, as it can be administered at the same time as the other recommended vaccines, meningococcal and pertussis. If your children are a little older, but still not vaccinated, do not worry. It can still be administered up to the age of 26.