What Every Parent Should Know About the HPV Vaccine

What Every Parent Should Know About the HPV Vaccine, what is HPV, How does the HPV vaccine work?

HPV infections are extremely common; in fact, the CDC says about 80 million Americans are infected with some form of the virus, and many don’t know it. While most of those infections are caused by strains of the virus that tend to clear up on their own thanks to the body’s immune system, some infections can’t be cleared up so easily. Over time, those infections can increase your risks for several types of cancer, including cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and cancers of the throat and anus in both genders. Some types of HPV infections can also cause genital warts.

The HPV vaccine can provide your child with protection against these dangerous types of HPV infections, but the key is to get vaccinated early — before your child has been sexually active. If you’re like most parents, you probably have some questions about the HPV vaccine and the infection itself. Here’s a quick FAQ to help you get the answers you need.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a family of dozens of viruses. HPV viruses are so common, the CDC says nearly every adult in the U.S. will become infected with at least one type of the HPV virus during their lifetimes. As noted, some types of HPV are cleared up pretty quickly by your immune system. But others are more difficult to eradicate. Viruses in this second group are the ones that can cause cancer. HPV rarely causes any symptoms, and lots of people can have — and spread — the virus without knowing it.

How does the HPV vaccine work?

The HPV vaccine contains tiny particles that “mimic” the real virus. When the vaccine is injected into your child’s bloodstream, it triggers the body’s natural immune responses, stimulating the production of special agents called antibodies that fight off HPV infection. Once your child’s immune system “learns” how to make these antibodies, it will produce them anytime it recognizes an HPV infection in the future, rendering your child immune to HPV infection even when they’re adults.

Can my child develop an HPV infection from the vaccine?

Despite what you may have heard, the HPV vaccine does not use live virus, so there is absolutely no chance your child will develop an HPV infection as a result of the vaccination.

What side effects are associated with the HPV vaccine?

The only side effects your child might experience with the HPV vaccine are the same side effects they could experience with any other type of vaccine: soreness around the injection spot that might last for a day or two, and less commonly, a mild headache or slight fever as your child’s immune system ramps up its production of antibodies.

At what age should my child have the HPV vaccine?

Although the vaccine is licensed for patients between nine and 26 years of age, most healthcare providers suggest giving the vaccine at around 11 or 12 years of age. Why so young? First, the vaccine is much more effective in preventing infection when it’s given before your child becomes sexually active. And second, kids between the ages of nine and 14 years have a stronger antibody response, which means their bodies will produce more antibodies to protect them against infection when they get older. As a result, kids who get the vaccine before they turn 15 only need to have two doses (two shots) spaced six to 12 months apart, while teens and young adults who have the vaccine between ages 15 and 26 will need to have three doses in order to achieve maximum benefits.

Being a parent isn’t easy, and sometimes, it means having to make decisions that can have an impact on your child for the rest of his or her life. Choosing whether or not to have your child vaccinated for HPV at Wasatch Peak Family is a personal decision you’ll have to weigh on your own. While you could wait until your child is an adult and “in charge” of making their own decisions, the best time to have the HPV vaccination is before your child reaches their majority at 18. Knowing the facts about HPV infection, its medical risks, and the HPV vaccine can help you feel a lot more confident about making the best decision for your child’s healthy future. To learn more about the vaccine or to schedule an office visit, book an appointment online today

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