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Oregon Family Magazine

Why Your Preteen Needs the HPV Vaccine

05/02/2023 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
If you have a child who is between the ages of 9-12 years old, there’s a simple step you can take to protect them from cancer: vaccinate them against human papillomavirus (HPV). 

What is HPV? 

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and it causes virtually all cervical cancer cases, as well as other types of cancer that affect both females and males.

HPV is highly transmissible and spreads by any skin-to-skin contact (not just sexual intercourse). Three out of 4 adults in the U.S. will contract HPV by the time they are 30 and most don’t know they are carrying the virus because it’s often asymptomatic. 

It is estimated that nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with HPV-caused cancer this year and the virus is linked to over 7,000 deaths annually from cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, head and neck. Countless more people undergo painful medical procedures to try to remove pre-cancerous lesions caused by this virus. 

Why pediatricians recommend the HPV vaccine for kids

The HPV vaccine was first approved in the U.S. in 2006 and has extensive medical research showing it to be safe and effective. Unfortunately, most counties in Oregon have low rates of HPV vaccination. 

The two-dose vaccine is most effective when given to preteens, whose bodies produce more antibodies to this shot than older adolescents and adults. This also ensures that kids are protected from cancer before they are exposed to the virus, which is the best way to help keep them safe.

How effective is the HPV vaccine?

The current version of the vaccine prevents nine strains of HPV that are known to cause cancer and research suggests the vaccine has already had a dramatic public health impact.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the mid-2000s, 11.5% of teenage girls carried at least one HPV strain. That figure dropped to 1.8% a decade later and a recent study in the American Cancer Society Journals found a 65% drop in cervical cancer incidence during 2012 through 2019 among women in their early 20s, the first cohort to receive the HPV vaccine.

Please immunize your children against this potentially deadly cancer-causing virus. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective and proven to save lives. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician.