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Doctor Q & A: Should my child get the HPV vaccine?

1.) What is HPV, and why does my child need a vaccine?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is an extremely common virus and the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Every year, 27,000 people in the United States get cancer caused by HPV. The HPV vaccination can significantly reduce the chance of that your child will get cancer.

2.) Is my child really at risk for HPV?

Almost everyone who is sexually active will get an HPV infection at some point during their life.

3.) Who should get the vaccine?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends routine HPV vaccination of both boys and girls at age 11 or 12, but the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. Vaccination is also recommended for girls through age 26 years and for boys through age 21 years who were not adequately vaccinated previously. A very recent update to the recommendations state that if a child is vaccinated prior to age 15, he or she only needs two doses instead of the otherwise recommended three doses.

4.) Why vaccinate at such an early age?

The HPV vaccination works best when it is done before a person is sexually active and exposed to the virus.

5.) What diseases are caused by HPV?

HPV can cause the following diseases:

  • Genital warts - Genital warts are growths that can appear on the outside or inside of the genitals and can spread to nearby skin. They are not cancer and do not turn into cancer.
  • Cancer – Cancer can occur on the sex organs, in the mouth and throat.

6.) Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have approved the vaccine and closely monitor the safety of this vaccine to identify any adverse events or side effects.

7.) How do you know the vaccine works?

Studies show that in just seven years, the HPV vaccine reduced HPV infection rates in 14- to 19-year-old girls by 56 percent. Studies also show that getting all doses of the HPV vaccine before sexual activity can reduce the risk of getting certain types of HPV-related cancer by up to 99 percent.

8.) Would you vaccinate your child against HPV?

Absolutely. CHKD pediatricians recommend this as part of your child’s general vaccine schedule.

9.) Do young people who have received the HPV vaccine engage in sexual behavior at an earlier age than those who do not?

Studies show that preteens and teens who were vaccinated against HPV did not have sex any earlier than those who were not vaccinated. Talk to your child about their health, safety and the values that are important to your family.

10.) Is the vaccine mandatory for school entry?

The vaccine is currently not mandatory for school entry.

About Mariel Focseneanu, MD

About Mariel   Focseneanu, MD Dr. Mariel Focseneanu provides general, as well as specialized, gynecologic care to girls and young women in a non-judgmental and personalized way. Knowing that going to the gynecologist (especially for the first time) may cause anxiety, Dr. Focseneanu hopes visits to her practice are as painless and educational as possible. Dr. Focseneanu's specialized training and clinical practice have given her expertise in managing gynecological issues unique to this population. She truly values the relationships she has with her patients and their parents, and is committed to providing care with compassion and respect.