We all know that our children need to get their routine vaccinations. Adults are encouraged to get flu and Tdap vaccinations, but what about our adolescents? Vaccinations are very important for this age group as well. Only one third of adolescent girls, and even fewer adolescent boys, receive HPV vaccinations. The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer by protecting against the strains of HPV that account for 70 percent of cervical cancer in women. It can also help prevent other cancers of the genital tract in women as well as oropharyngeal cancers (base of tongue, tonsils and back of throat) in men and women and penile and anal cancer in men. The vaccine, given in a series of three shots, is recommended for adolescent girls and boys at 11-12 years of age. It can be given at the same time as the vaccines that prevent whooping cough and meningococcal disease, as well as any other vaccines an adolescent may be due to receive. It is approved for people ages 9-26, so if it is not given at age 11-12, there is still time to be able to get some protection against these viruses.
Some people wonder why their 11 or 12 year old child needs a vaccine to prevent a virus that is transmitted sexually. There are a couple of very good reasons for this. First, it is important to have the vaccine and the immunity it provides well before any sexual activity occurs. Also, preteens have excellent immune systems and the immune response to this vaccine is great in this age group, giving them even better protection against the virus.
Click here to see the CDC fact sheet with general information about HPV and the vaccine that can prevent it.