The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12. If you missed getting vaccinated when you were younger, it’s not too late: the HPV vaccine is recommended for women up to age 26 and men through age 21.
While it is most effective to get the HPV series before a person becomes sexually active, it is still worthwhile to get it even after becoming sexually active. For people over 14, three shots will be needed over a six month time period, and for kids 14 and under, two shots are needed, six to 12 months apart.
The vaccine offers protection from the human papillomavirus infection, which is transmitted most commonly by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. HPV infections can cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, anus and throat.
Data shows HPV vaccines provide close to 100 percent protection against cervical pre-cancers and genital warts. Since the vaccine was first recommended, the number of HPV infections has decreased. However, every year, millions of people including teens become infected. Currently, one in four people in the United States is carrying the HPV infection, and many don’t know it.
The HPV vaccine can be administered during a regular office visit. Talk to your physician for more information.
- Vicki R. Samuels, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, family medicine
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