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Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually transmitted illness that has been linked, through extensive research, to multiple cancers including cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, penile cancer, rectal cancer, and many more. But…there’s a vaccine for that!Dr. Dunlap
The HPV Vaccine (marketed under a few different trade names, but most well known as Gardasil 9) vaccinates against the 9 types of human papilloma virus most likely to cause cancers. It is approved for individuals aged 9 to 45. This includes both girls and boys! The vaccine is typically given at the 11-year well child check along with the other two vaccines given at that visit.
Many parents ask, “why am I giving my 11-year old child a vaccine for a sexually transmitted illness?” The answer is complex. First of all, vaccines always work best when given in groups. They have a synergistic effect, meaning the immune system responds better and mounts a better and longer immune response. Secondly, the HPV vaccine is best when given far in advance of the onset of sexual activity of any kind. Lastly, the vaccine is a 2-dose series given 6 months apart IF a child receives the vaccine before age 15. Long-term studies show that those who received the vaccine before age 15 mounted a much longer immunity to HPV and this immunity is likely life-long. Those who receive the vaccine after age 15 require 3 doses of the vaccine to procure the same level of immunity.
Dr. Dunlap not only highly recommends that your child receive the full series of the HPV vaccine, but she has given it to her own children.
The HPV vaccine is safe! Let’s say that again: the HPV vaccine is SAFE! The long term studies which were done about 5 years ago, showed a better safety profile for the HPV vaccine than for many other routine vaccines. The most common side effects were pain at the injection site, swelling, and, rarely, passing out immediately after the vaccine (this is due to a pain response common in adolescents and has nothing to do with the vaccine itself).
Dr. Dunlap will discuss the HPV vaccine with you further at your child’s 11-year well child check.