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HPV Vaccine for Kids: What You Need to Know

mother and daughter talking to healthcare provider about HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine was first introduced in 2006. Since then, millions of children, teens, and adults in the United States have received the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts and contributes to the formation of abnormal cells that might lead to cancer. By protecting against this virus, this vaccine helps prevent six types of cancer.

The recommended age for vaccination is 11 to 12 years old. Children as young as 9 years old can safely get the vaccine. Older children, teens, and young adults up to age 26 may also benefit from HPV vaccination.

Initially recommended for girls, HPV vaccination is now recommended for all children within the age parameters, regardless of gender.

You may be wondering if the HPV vaccine is appropriate for your child, and if so, when they should get it. Read on to learn about the HPV vaccine and its benefits.

Currently, Gardasil 9 is the only HPV vaccine administered in the United States.

Gardasil 9 protects against the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer, plus other high risk strains. These strains are HPV 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.

Gardasil 9 is given as a series of either two or three injections based on your age and medical conditions:

  • Children under 15. This age group gets their second shot 6 months to 1 year after their first vaccination. If both shots are given less than 5 months apart, they should get a third vaccine.
  • People who are 15 to 26 years old. People in this age group are recommended to get three shots. The second dose is given 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third dose is recommended 4 months after the second dose.
  • Immunocompromised people ages 9 to 26. People in this group need three shots. The dosing schedule is the same as the one recommended for people ages 16 to 26.

Many parents wonder why the HPV vaccine is recommended for young children. This vaccine is not a cure for HPV but rather, a preventive measure you can take to help protect your child from serious disease. It is most effective when introduced before sexual or intimate activity begins.

The HPV vaccine can protect your child against several cancers, as well as genital warts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV causes:

  • more than 90 percent of all anal and cervical cancers
  • about 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers
  • 60 percent of penile cancers

The cancers associated with HPV exposure are:

The HPV vaccine works best if given before exposure to HPV. HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has HPV. The CDC recommends children have the HPV vaccine at ages 11 to 12 — before they become sexually active.

Some children may benefit from earlier vaccination. If you think it may be challenging for your child to be vaccinated later, or you think they may be experimenting with intimacy early, they can be vaccinated starting at age 9.

Adolescents, teens, and young adults who did not get vaccinated at ages 11 or 12 can still do so. If exposure to HPV has already occurred, the vaccine may not be as effective. However, it is still given to young adults who request it up to age 26.

In some instances, older people may also opt to get the vaccine. Since it is safe, there is no downside to getting the HPV vaccine. It will not cause harm.

A pediatrician can give your child the HPV vaccine during a regular visit, such as a well-child appointment. This can help make sure they get their second shot on schedule.

If your child doesn’t have a regular pediatrician, you can get them vaccinated at many clinics, health centers, and pharmacies.

Your child may need to get vaccinated against HPV before seventh grade, in some areas.

Vaccine requirements in the United States are determined by states and territories, not by the federal government. While most states do not require HPV vaccination currently, the list is growing.

Areas where HPV vaccination is currently required to attend school include:

  • Hawaii
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

The HPV vaccine protects adolescents, teens, and young adults from HPV infection. HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause six types of cancer, plus genital warts.

The best time for your child to get vaccinated is before intimate physical activity begins. The CDC recommends vaccinating your child at ages 11 or 12.

The HPV vaccine is safe and effective.

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