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.
Why Should Girls Receive the
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
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.
What Concerns Do Parents Have about the HPV Vaccine?
What are some objections to the vaccine? Here are some concerns you may
have, along with responses to these concerns.
- The HPV vaccine does not have a long track record of safety and
effectiveness. Over time, unintended problems may emerge.
Researchers have tested the
vaccines in more than 11,000 females, ages 9 to 26, around the world. They've
concluded that the vaccines are safe and cause no serious side effects. The FDA
has reviewed the studies and agrees. The main side effect of the HPV
vaccine was mild pain at the injection site. The vaccine contains no mercury or
- Many states now require the vaccine for middle-school girls, which may
infringe on parental rights.
If states do make the HPV vaccine mandatory, you may have a choice to opt
out by reading the vaccine literature and signing a form.
- The vaccine may give girls a false sense of security, or it may subtly
encourage sexual activity.
You can explain that the HPV vaccine is a cervical cancer vaccine. It only
protects against some types of HPV that lead to cancer. It offers no protection
against HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and other STDs (sexually
You can also discuss factors that increase or decrease risk of HPV
infection. According to the American Cancer Society, these factors increase HPV
- Having sex at an early age.
- Having many sexual partners.
- Having a partner who has had many sexual partners.