The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that can cause cancer in both men and women. This includes cervical cancer, which more than 12,000 Americans are diagnosed with each year.
Now, cervical cancer is highly preventable with the HPV vaccine and routine testing. Below, Brian Nguyen, DO, a pediatrician with Dignity Health Woodland Clinic answers common questions parents often have about the HPV vaccine.
Q: Why is it important for my child to get vaccinated against HPV?
Dr. Nguyen: HPV is a very common virus. More than half of men and women in the United States will get infected with HPV at some point. Most people don’t know when they have HPV as it has little to no symptoms.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. The virus can also cause other types of cancer including throat and mouth cancer, anal cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancers. You can help protect your child from developing these cancers later in life, by ensuring that they get the HPV vaccine.
When should my child get vaccinated?
Dr. Nguyen: It is recommended that all children get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 12. Studies have shown that the vaccine works much better for children who are vaccinated at an earlier age, so it’s best not to wait to get the vaccine. Children aged 9 to 14 only need two doses of the vaccine, as opposed to children 15 and older, who need three doses.
Is it safe to get the vaccine at the same time as other recommended vaccines?
Dr. Nguyen: Yes. Many children get their first dose of the HPV vaccine at the same time they are vaccinated for meningitis, tetanus and whooping cough. Your child’s pediatrician can also help determine the best time for your child to get the HPV vaccine and can answer any questions you may have about vaccine scheduling and safety.
Is it important for boys to get the vaccine?
Dr. Nguyen: We know that the vaccine is very effective at preventing common types of cancer that HPV causes in both men and women. That's why the vaccine is equally recommended for both boys and girls. Getting the vaccine protects your child long before they are ever exposed to the cancer-causing virus.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
Dr. Nguyen: Yes. The HPV vaccines are very safe. We know this because hundreds of millions of people worldwide have received the vaccines. In order for the vaccines to be approved by the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the vaccines had to go through strict safety testing. The CDC and the FDA continue to monitor the safety of HPV vaccines, and share any safety concerns with the public.
For parents who may be hesitant about getting their child vaccinated, It’s important to note that the HPV vaccine allows children to develop immunity from harmful strains of HPV. For additional information on HPV or the HPV vaccine, reach out to your child’s pediatrician to learn more.