It’s the season of back to school physicals and wellness visits. With your child going in for routine vaccinations, there is one other vaccination that should be on your discussion list: the HPV vaccination.
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus, or “HPV,” is the most common sexually transmitted infection spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during both sexual intercourse and outer-course activity. HPV has over 150 variant types, and fifteen of these types have been found to cause cancer. In fact, HPV is associated with more than 90% of cervical and anal cancers as well as 70% of oropharyngeal cancers diagnosed. In addition to these cancers, HPV infection can also lead to:
- Vaginal and vulvar cancers in females
- Penile cancer in males
- Throat cancer and genital warts in both males and females
What is the HPV Vaccine?
HPV can have serious and lasting effects, but the HPV vaccine can protect your child from this common infection. Formally named the 9-valent human papillomavirus vaccine but commonly known as Gardasil-9, the vaccine is universally recommended by physicians and is 97% effective in targeting several strains of HPV – significantly reducing the risk of future cancers.
When is the vaccine given?
Both healthcare providers and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) highly recommend starting HPV vaccination at ages 11 to 12 for both females and males. This is for two reasons:
- Children produce a more robust immune response at this age, which leads to maximizing immunity.
- Vaccination at this age provides immunity before the onset of sexual activity.
Conveniently, the HPV vaccine can be easily incorporated into your child’s routine vaccination schedules. Many providers suggest initiating the vaccine at the 11 to 12-yeard old visit along with the Tdap and meningococcal vaccines.
How is the vaccine given?
The HPV vaccination is comprised of a two- or three-dose sequence depending on age and other patient-specific circumstances:
- Patients ages 9-14 will receive a 2-dose sequence, with 6 to 12 months between the doses.
- Patients 15 or older or patients who are immunocompromised will receive a three-dose series. The second vaccine will be given one to two months after the first dose and the third vaccine six months after the first dose.
This vaccine is injected in a muscle on the upper arm or thigh by a healthcare professional. You will be observed for 15 minutes after each dose. Occasionally fainting happens after the vaccine is given, so it is recommended that you sit or lie down during the 15 minutes.
With the vaccine being both highly effective and safe, it is highly encouraged that you speak with your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine your child.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2017). HPV Vaccine for Preteens and Teens. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/teen/hpv.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2017). Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years of Age or Younger. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html.