Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity currently infected and is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. About 20 million women and men are with HPV in the United States, mostly young people in their late teens and early 20s. And because it often has no symptoms, many people do not know they have the disease. But with one series of shots, you can help protect your daughter against HPV and significantly reduce her risk of developing cervical cancer.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. About 40 of these can cause genital warts and precancerous changes. Two vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to guard against the HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer. Both have been recommended for girls and women ages 9-26.
The vaccination is given as a series of three shots over a six-month period. Your daughter should receive all three shots to ensure the vaccine will be effective. The most common side effect is soreness or reddening of the skin where the shot is given.
But the HPV vaccine isn’t just for women. Gardasil, which has been shown to also protect against the HPV types that cause most genital warts, is also approved for males ages 9-26.
The best time to get the HPV vaccine is at age 11 or 12, when most children are getting other vaccinations. Although these shots should be given before a person is sexually active for full effectiveness, they can still be effective for people who are sexually active, so young adults are also encouraged to get vaccinated.
Ask your child’s pediatrician whether the HPV vaccine is appropriate. Find a pediatrician near you »