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HPV vaccine important for teens

Teens as young as 11 should start getting the HPV vaccine
Teens as young as 11 should start getting the HPV vaccine

Genital HPV is a common virus that passes through direct skin contact during sex. HPV infection is most common in men and women in their late teens and early twenties. Most types of HPV cause no symptoms but some can cause cervical cancer and other cancers such as cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and the back of the throat. Genital warts are also caused by HPV. Approximately 26,00 HPV related cancers occur in the US every year, affecting both men and women.

The vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year olds or anyone 13 to 26 who has not been vaccinated or completed the series of three shots.

Nonetheless, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that nearly half of all teen girls are still skipping the recommended HPV vaccine. The CDC previously attributed these low vaccination rates in part to the inadequate number of encounters with healthcare providers. However, new reports have shown that 84% of un-vaccinated girls have visited a doctor or other provider’s office, where they have received other vaccinations but did not receive the HPV vaccine. The report suggests that coverage could be as high as 92.6% if the HPV vaccination had been initiated during these visits.

The HPV vaccine is generally given in 3 shots over a six-month period and all three doses are required for it to be effective. Parents often neglect having their child vaccinated because they are not yet sexual active but need to be reminded that, as with any other routinely administered vaccine, you don’t have to wait for exposure to occur before administering the HPV vaccine.