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What is Human Papillomavirus - a.k.a. HPV?

Author: Dr. William Rappaport
Date: September 2017

little girl getting vaccination from pediatrician at office

What is HPV?

HPV is virus that enters the body by through intimate contact via tiny small tears or abrasions. It usually comes from sexual contact and most people will become infected with it at some point in their life. There are over 100 strains of the HPV virus. The ones that we are most concerned with are those that cause genital warts and cancer in both boys and girls. This type of HPV infection can lead to deadly forms of cancers; vaginal, vulvar, cervical, anal, penile and throat. Luckily, we can prevent the virus from ever entering our system with the new HPV vaccine.

Should I Vaccinate my Child? Yes!

The HPV vaccine is crucial for your child regardless of gender. According to the CDC, about 14 million people including teens are infected with the virus each year. The vaccine can protect girls from cervical, vaginal and vulva cancers and in boys’ penile cancer. Mouth and throat cancers in both can be caused by HPV and prevented with the vaccine.

 The vaccine should be given to all kids regardless of sexual activity or not. Giving the vaccine to preteens gives them time to develop an immune response before any sexual activity occurs. They should be dosed starting at age eleven through fifteen. However, by age eleven this should be routine. At this age, the recommendation is two shots, spaced six to twelve months apart. Age fifteen and older need a three-shot series with the first two spaced two months apart and the third six months later.

The vaccine is safe and has been studied extensively by the CDC and FDA. Mild side effects occur similar to the flu shot. For more information talk with your child’s doctor about the pros and cons of vaccinating early.


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