Why Getting the HPV Vaccine for Your Child Helps Prevent Cancer
With the COVID pandemic so prevalent in our minds, it can be easy to forget about other commonly transmitted illnesses. Despite mask-wearing and hand-washing, there are still viruses out there that parents should be concerned about.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of those very common viruses that spread easily and can infect 80 percent of the population at some point in their lives.
How is HPV transmitted, and is it dangerous?
HPV can be easily transmitted, which is why most people will likely get some form of the virus in their lifetime. It is passed on through skin-to-skin contact, typically through sexual intercourse—but not always. An HPV infection is not likely to be lethal. Most people don’t even know when they have the virus. But in some cases, it can cause cancer later on in life.
Fortunately, a vaccine can help prevent most of the cancers caused by HPV, and it is more effective if received at an earlier age. That’s why we recommend kids to get the HPV vaccine after the age of 11 (though it can be given as young as 9 in special conditions).
How safe is the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is very effective—preventing over 90% of the cancers caused by the virus and has a good safety record. The FDA approves it for use in young teens and adults, ages 9 to 26. Like most vaccines, there may be side effects—such as swelling and redness at the injection site, dizziness, fainting, or nausea. There have been few reports of adverse allergic reactions.
According to the CDC, the vaccine should be administered in two doses, spaced 6-12 months apart. If they are over the age of 15, they may need three shots. The only cases in which the vaccine is not recommended are if your child is sick, pregnant, or if they experienced an allergic reaction when receiving their first dose.
It’s important to note that your child cannot get an HPV infection from the vaccine. It protects your child by helping their body create antibodies to the virus. Not only can it help prevent cancers caused by HPV, like cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancer (among others), but it also prevents genital warts.
Is the HPV vaccine 100% effective?
There are numerous different strains of HPV, and not all of them are high risk. While the HPV vaccine is very effective for prevention for most of these strains, it isn’t 100% effective. Along with the vaccine, educate your teens on the importance of getting regular screenings for HPV from the age of 21. For women, that means regular pap smears.
The good news is HPV is preventable. And by giving your kids the vaccine just once when they’re young, you can protect them from most HPV-caused cancers for the rest of their lives.
Questions about the HPV vaccine? We’d be happy to talk with you about immunization and set up a vaccine schedule for your child. Please feel free to call our office or book an appointment through our secure patient portal today.