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Within six years of HPV vaccine introduction, a recent study in Pediatrics found a 64% decrease in 4vHPV type prevalence among females aged 14 to 19 years and a 34% decrease among those aged 20 to 24 years. The news is a welcome push for a vaccine that can be a struggle to promote in the United States. This is likely because it is associated with sexual activity, rather than the cancer it prevents.

With data confirming the benefits of vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), it’s a good time to highlight this infection and the vaccine that we use to protect your children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, is at epidemic levels – 14 million Americans get infected every year. It is most common in men and women in their late teens and early 20s. Because so many types of HPV have no symptoms, it is easily spread between partners. There are about 40 different types of HPV that can cause genital infection. Most either cause no symptoms, or very mild ones that lasts only for a year or two.

However, some types of HPV can cause serious health problems, including cancer, which is why vaccination is so important. Without a doubt the primary focus of the HPV vaccine is related to the link to cervical cancer in women. In the United States, about 12,000 women get cervical or other genital cancers from HPV each year, with 4,000 deaths annually. Vaccination can prevent most of these cancers. The other huge benefit of vaccination is reduction in head and neck and anal cancers in men. In the United States, about 7,000 men get head and neck and anal cancers from HPV each year. Additionally, HPV can lead to genital warts in women and men.

HPV vaccination is strongly recommended for both males and females. It is routinely given at 11 or 12 years of age, but it may be given beginning at age 9 years through age 26 years for females and males. Completion of the series involves 3 doses–the second dose 2 months after the first and the third dose 4 months after the second. Reactions to the vaccine are usually mild and go away on their own. These include pain and redness at the injection site, low grade fever and mild headache.

At Kids First Pediatrics, we all believe wholeheartedly in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines we administer and strongly encourage adherence to the vaccine schedule and recommendations of the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) at the CDC – including the HPV vaccine.