Protecting Kids for HPV: July 24, 2019

“The biggest question about the HPV vaccine is why does my child need this at such a young age?” For pediatric infectious disease, Dr. Michelle Hoffman—the answer is simple. “This vaccine works best number one before a child has ever been exposed to HPV, and number two, while their immune system is most robust at making a response to the vaccine.”

The HPV vaccine can be given to girls and boys as young as nine years old. Studies show the vaccine is most effective between the ages of 9 and 14. Kids under 14 years old need two doses, but anyone over 14 will need three doses. “HPV is a really common virus. It can cause common warts, and it can cause cervical cancer and throat cancer. The way you get it is through contact, not just sexual contact, but any contact with the virus can lead to transmission,” she said.

Because the vaccine has proven so successful at preventing cervical and throat cancer, recently the FDA extended the age to get the vaccine from 26 to 45. “Cervical cancer is actually on the decline right now, but head and neck cancers are going to surpass the number of cervical cancers that we find, and so with those numbers increasing this vaccine becomes even more important,” Dr. Hoffman said.

The HPV vaccine covers nine different strains of the disease, which are the most common cancer-causing strains. “It does a good job of preventing cancer. I would definitely recommend giving this vaccine to anybody who asks me a question about it,” she said.