Do Your Children Need the HPV Vaccination?

Posted on: 27 July 2017

You have probably seen commercials on television touting the benefits of making sure your child has an HPV vaccination, but exactly what is HPV? Is the vaccination they are talking about for girls or is it for boys? What are the benefits of the vaccination? Where do they get it? What age do children need it and are there any boosters they will need later in life? Hopefully this information will shed a little light on some of your questions.

What Is HPV?

HPV, or Human papillomavirus, holds the title of being the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country. It has been stated that approximately 80 percent of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives. It affects anyone who is sexually active, both male and female. Although it sexually transmitted, people can get HPV without ever having sexual intercourse. It can be transmitted by skin to skin transmission such as genital-to-genital or even hand-to-genital contact. 

HPV is not one virus but is a collection of approximately 150 related viruses that are each assigned a different number. Because of this composition, how a person is actually affected when they contract HPV can be vastly different.  

HPV falls into two categories:

Low-risk HPVs are not cancer causing but can cause genital and anal warts. These are very often referred to as an anogenital HPV infection. For example, HPV-6 and HPV-11 causes approximately 90 percent of all genital warts. These types have also been known to cause respiratory tumors, which can grow in your air passages leading to your lungs.

High-risk HPVs can cause various forms of cancer. Although approximately a dozen high-risk types have been discovered, two of these, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are the sources of the majority of HPV related cancers. Some of these cancers are as follows:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Penile cancer
  • Oropharyngeal cancer

While all of these cancers can be really serious when they occur, they are more rare than people think. Most HPV infections are asymptomatic and go away on their own.

What Is the HPV Vaccine?

Although HPV is a collection of viruses, there are actually two vaccines on the market that protect against HPV. Gardasil helps to prevent four of the major types (6, 11, 16, and 18). These are the types that are the most responsible for the majority of the cervical cancer and genital wart cases. Cervarix is another brand name that helps to prevent the two major types that primarily cause cervical cancer (16 and 18). Both are given in a series of two to three shots, which ideally will take place within six months. Once given the complete series, there are no boosters to receive later in life. 

Who Should Receive the Vaccine?

If you choose to vaccinate your child against HPV, you need to do so before they begin sexual exploration. This means that they need to be vaccinated as pre-teens. It is recommended that your daughters be vaccinated to help prevent genital warts and various cancers between the ages of 9–25. HPV vaccines can also help your sons avoid genital warts and anal cancers. The vaccines should be offered to them between the ages of 9–26. 

HPV vaccines are relatively new, and the first one was not approved by the FDA until 2006. The other one did not arrive on the market until 2009. This makes some parents and physicians feel that the long-term effects are still relatively unknown.

Discuss HPV with a family doctor at a clinic like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc. They will be able to further discuss the pros and cons of your children receiving these vaccinations, as well as answer any questions that you may have pertaining to the various conditions that HPV can cause.