Three middle school kids who have been vaccinated for HPV act goofy for the camera


Prevent cancer? Vaccinate your teen for HPV

  • HPV is linked with certain types of cancer and the development of genital warts.
  • Only 51% of teens who get their first shot complete the recommended series of shots
  • It’s recommended that boys and girls be vaccinated when they are 11-12 years old, but the vaccine can be given as early as the age of 9 and can benefit people up to age 45.

HPV, human papillomavirus, is so common it is likely that almost all of us will be exposed and have the potential to develop an HPV related disease. In fact, every year in the United States HPV causes 33,700 cases of cancer in men and women. Almost 80 million Americans have been infected, with almost 15 million new infections every year. Nine out of 10 HPV infections, if left untreated, will go away by themselves within two years, but 10 percent of the time an HPV infection lasts longer and can cause cancers of the:

  • cervix, vagina and vulva, in women
  • penis, in men
  • anus, back of the throat, tongue and tonsils, in women and men.

The good news is clinical trials have shown that the HPV vaccine can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing cancer and genital warts. The bad news is that the number of people receiving the vaccine in the United States, while improving, still remains too low. The percentage of adolescents who have started the vaccine series has increased by about five percent every year since 2013. As of 2017, 49 percent of all boys and girls ages 13-17 have had their first vaccination.

When should someone get the HPV shot?

To be the most effective, the HPV vaccine series should be given prior to exposure to HPV. That's why the vaccine is recommended for children ages 11 to 12, to ensure protection long before teens are exposed to the virus. The vaccine contains nine types or strains of HPV virus so it can be helpful even if you have already been exposed to a specific HPV type by protecting against the other strains. The most common version of the vaccine provides protection against the strains of HPV that cause 90 percent of all genital warts and 80 percent of all cervical cancers.

Children who get the first dose before age 15 need two doses. People who are 15 to 45 when they get their first dose will need three doses. The second dose should be given six to 12 months after the initial dose. For people over age 15, the second dose is given one to two months after the first and the third is administered six months from the first dose. The HPV vaccine is most effective when the series is completed as recommended.

Talk to your doctor about the vaccines your child needs and when they need them.


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