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Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Vaccines against the human papilloma virus (HPV) are important tools used to prevent cancer and genital warts in girls and young women.
Beginning in 2007, a U.S. federal recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), was issued for all girls ages 11-12, and young women ages 13-26 who have not received any or all doses when they were younger to receive either HPV vaccine.
HPV vaccines are most effective when girls receive all three doses before becoming sexually active, which is why it is approved for girls as young as age 9. The second dose is to be given one to two months after the first, and the third dose is to be given six months after the first dose.
Two vaccines are available to protect girls against cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV:
Both vaccines are licensed by the FDA as safe and effective, and well over 46 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed in the United States alone. The CDC and FDA have continued to monitor HPV vaccine safety since Gardasil was first approved in 2006.
Testing in thousands of people around the world showed no serious side effects of vaccination. Mild side effects include pain at injection site, fever, headache, and nausea. Sitting for 15 minutes can help prevent dizziness or fainting commonly associated with injections or medical procedures.
One fear of many parents commonly reported by popular media is that vaccination against a sexually transmitted infection (STI) could lead to increased promiscuity or less safe sexual practices. A study in the journal Pediatrics addressed this directly in 2012, showing girls were not more likely to become pregnant or infected with an STI if they received the vaccine1.
Girls receiving the vaccine should still be educated and guided on the use of condoms and safe sex practices, but the vaccine does not increase their risk for pregnancy or STIs.
When making the decision to vaccinate your daughter, there are a few other situations to take into consideration. Talk to your doctor for more information about your daughter’s specific needs.
PAP screenings - Girls receiving the vaccine are at decreased risk for abnormal PAP findings; however they should still receive the recommended PAP screening beginning at age 21.
Pregnancy - Girls who are pregnant should not receive the vaccine while pregnant.
Prior incidence of HPV - If a strain of HPV has already been acquired, the vaccine won't make it go away, but it is unlikely that young people will have been infected with all four strains of HPV -- 6, 11, 16 and 18, all of which can cause 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. Girls who have been previously diagnosed with one form of HPV or genital warts should still receive the vaccine as she may still receive protection from other types of HPV prevented by the vaccine2.
Prepared in partnership with Kyle Scarberry, MD, Class of 2013, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
1Sexual activity-related outcomes after human papillomavirus vaccination of 11- to 12-year-olds. Bednarczyk RA, Davis R, Ault K, Orenstein W, Omer SB. Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130(5):798-805. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1516. Epub 2012 Oct 15.
2Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For answers to more questions you may have before deciding to vaccinate your child, including how to pay for the vaccine, please refer to the following websites:
This article is a NetWellness exclusive.
Last Reviewed: Mar 18, 2013
Sara H Lee, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University