The first HPV vaccine was introduced in the United States over 10 years ago. At the time it was recommended that girls, age 11 to 12, get the vaccine. In the fall of 2017 the United States made the recommendation that the vaccine should also be given to boys of the same age. This vaccine is FDA and CDC approved.
What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. This is a very common virus. In fact, 9 out 10 people will get the virus at some point in their lives. Most people do not even know that they have been infected. Because of this, the virus can be transferred sexually, without ever knowing. About 14 million people in the United States become infected every year. Most HPV infections (90%) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases.
Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer caused by HPV. It may also cause vaginal, vulva, anal and throat cancer in women or penile, anal or throat cancer in men.
HPV is sexually transmitted from one person to another. This can be either vaginal, anal or oral sex. Since there are usually no symptoms of the virus, one may never know they are transmitting, or have been transmitted with the virus. The vaccine will not clear the infection while it is present, which is why it is suggested that children obtain it before they are sexually active.
What are the Side Effects of the HPV Vaccine?
Vaccines, like any medication, can have side effects. While many people report having no side effects, some say their arm is sore for only a short period. The most common side effects with HPV are:
- Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
- Headache or feeling tired
- Muscle or joint pain
When Should HPV Vaccine be Given?
The vaccine is now suggested for girls as early as age 9. Because it is only sexually transmitted, the goal is to get everyone vaccinated before they begin to have sex. If boys and girls are not vaccinated when they are pre-teen, they should get vaccinated as soon as possible. HPV vaccine is now recommended for women through age 26 and men through age 21. Teen boys and girls who did not get vaccinated when they were younger should get it now.
As with other vaccinations that been given, the more vaccinated, there should be a decline in the number of cancers linked to this virus. HPV could become as uncommon as smallpox.
Chances are high that you will be taking your child to the doctor during their ages of 9-12. Use this time to talk to your child’s doctor about what is best for them.