Genital human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. About 80 million people in the United States currently have HPV, and more than 14 million new cases are diagnosed each year.
There are more than 40 types of HPV and some can cause cancer in the cervix or throat. But, there are ways to protect you and your children from this virus. Today, there is a vaccine that protects your child from many types of HPV!
This vaccine is usually given as a two- or three-dose series, depending on how old your child is when they get the first shot. Pediatricians usually recommend that boys and girls begin the series at age 11 or 12, but it may be given to kids as young as age 9 or to young adults up to age 26.
The HPV vaccine is important because it prevents infections that can cause cancer. Studies continue to prove that HPV vaccination works extremely well, decreasing the number of infections and HPV precancers in young people.
Dr. Lisa Irvin, medical director of the Partners in Pediatrics Calhoun clinic, breaks down six myths about the HPV vaccine.
My child’s school doesn’t require the HPV vaccine, so it must not be essential.
Fact: School entry requirements are developed for public health and safety, but don’t always reflect the most current medical recommendations. Children’s, the CDC and my physician colleagues strongly recommend that every child receives this vaccine at age 11 or 12.
Only girls can get the HPV vaccination.
Fact: Boys can and should get the HPV vaccination too! It can prevent future infections that can lead to cancers of the penis, anus and back of the throat in men. HPV is common in both men and women, so it’s important to get vaccinated regardless of gender.
Teens don’t need the HPV vaccination until they are ready for sex.
Fact: The vaccine can only protect your child from HPV if they receive the full series before they are ever exposed to the disease. Additionally, if your child gets the vaccine before age 15, they will only need two doses; however, if you wait too long, they may end up needing three shots.
“The vaccine actually works better when you are younger,” explained Irvin. “That’s why it’s important to follow your pediatrician’s recommendation and start the vaccine at 11 or 12 years old.”
The HPV vaccination will make my child think it’s okay to have sex.
Fact: Studies tell us that getting the HPV vaccination does not make teens more likely to start having sex.
The HPV vaccine will cause infertility in my child.
Fact: There is no evidence that suggests that the HPV vaccine will affect future fertility. However, women who develop precancer or cancer related to an HPV infection may require treatment that would limit their ability to have children.
The HPV vaccine isn’t safe.
Fact: The HPV vaccine, along with all immunizations, is very safe. Although, like any medication, some side effects are possible, including pain, swelling or redness where the shot was given. But these are mild and should go away within a few days.