What Parents Should Know About the HPV, or Cervical Cancer, Vaccine
Does your daughter need the HPV vaccine to help protect against cervical cancer? Get the latest medical information on the HPV vaccine here.
What Are the Benefits of the HPV Vaccine?
The main benefit of the vaccine is protection from cervical cancer.
Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix. In 2006, the FDA licensed Gardasil, the first cervical cancer vaccine. In 2007 Cervarix was approved. However, they don't protect against all types of cancer-causing HPV. Vaccines protect against these four types of HPV:
These types are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.
Has your daughter already been infected with one of these HPV strains? If so, receiving the vaccine won't prevent disease from that particular type. However, the HPV vaccine will protect against infection from the other HPV strains included in the shot.
Why Should Girls Receive the HPV Vaccine?
Full benefit of the HPV vaccine occurs only if you receive it before you're infected with any of the HPV strains included in the vaccine. That's why the CDC recommends vaccinating girls between ages 11 and 12. Ideally, this is before they become sexually active. The HPV vaccine can also be given to girls as young as 9 and to girls from age 13 to 26 who have not received it earlier.
You may question whether 11 or 12 is too early to vaccinate. Your daughter may not become sexually active for several more years. Some pediatricians counter that vaccinating preteens helps to take the guesswork out of figuring out when your daughter has become sexually active. The vaccine also has been shown to be more effective in immunizing against HPV when it is given to younger girls who have never been infected with the dangerous HPV strains.
How Is the HPV Vaccine Given?
The HPV vaccine is given in three injections over a six-month period. So far, scientists know that the vaccine is effective for at least five years. It shows no decreasing immunity during that time. Protection may last even longer. Researchers are still studying long-term effectiveness and whether a booster vaccine will be needed.