Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that can cause cancer.
The HPV vaccine prevents infection from the most harmful kinds of HPV.
What is HPV?
HPV is a very common virus. Nearly 80 million people - about one in four - are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women, penile cancer in men and anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat (oropharynx) and genital warts in both men and women.
Three things parents should know about preventing cancer:
- HPV vaccine is cancer prevention
HPV vaccine protects against HPV types that most commonly cause anal, cervical, throat/neck, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Most of these cancers can be prevented by HPV vaccine.
- HPV vaccine is one of the vaccines recommended for preteens.
Preteens need three vaccines at 11 or 12. They protect against whooping cough, meningitis and cancers caused by HPV.
- HPV vaccine is best at 11-12 years
Preteens have a higher immune response to HPV vaccines than older teens. While there is very little risk of exposure to HPV before age 13, the risk of exposure increases thereafter.
What is the HPV vaccine schedule?
Most adolescents 9 through 14 years of age should receive the vaccine in two doses, with the second dose 6 to 12 months following the first dose. For those that do not start the series before age 15, three doses should be given. The second shot is given between one and two months after the first dose and the third dose is given six months after the first. Following these schedules results in the most effective protection.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. The first HPV vaccine was available in 2006, and since then, more than 40 million doses of vaccine have been administered. There have been no serious safety concerns associated with HPV vaccination.
Is help available for the cost of vaccines?
Check to see if your health insurance covers the HPV vaccine. If your child does not have health insurance or does not have insurance that covers vaccines, ask your health care provider about Oregon’s Vaccines For Children (VFC) program or visit your local health department or school-based health center. Pharmacies can also provide immunizations for children who are 11 and older.