The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children. It protects against three potentially serious illnesses. It is a two-part vaccination, and in most states, you must prove your children have gotten it before they can enter school. If you are an adult who has not had the vaccination or the diseases, you may need the MMR shot, too.
Cervarix targets HPV types 16 and 18. It's approved for females aged 10-25 to help prevent cervical cancer.
Both are relatively new vaccines -- the FDA approved Gardasil in 2006 and Cervarix in 2009. And that makes some parents uneasy. Should they be, or are their fears unfounded?
Resistance to the HPV Vaccine
Most pediatricians recommend routine vaccination against HPV for girls, and to a lesser extent, for boys (the CDC made a "permissive" recommendation regarding boys and the HPV vaccine. It can be given to them between 9 and 26 years old, but it need not be routine, partly because of the vaccine's high cost). However, the rate of full immunization among girls aged 13-17 in the U.S. in 2009 was about 27%. The same year, about 44% of the adolescent girls received at least one of the three shots in the series.
"Of course we would like coverage to be higher. However, it is not that different from rates for other new vaccines soon after licensure," says Lauri Markowitz, MD, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC. She led the team that reviewed safety trials for the CDC and recommended Gardasil in 2007.
Getting vaccinated against HPV is recommended before becoming sexually active. Markowitz says studies show that many parents wait until their daughters are older before getting the shot, which is recommended for girls 11 or 12.
Another reason for the low coverage, Markowitz says, is that getting vaccinated against HPV takes two additional appointments, ideally within 6 months, and adolescents typically don't make that many visits to their doctor or other health care provider.