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Is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine Right for My Child?

As a pediatrician, I get many questions about HPV vaccination and whether it is recommended for all children. Here are some common questions and answers to help you decide what’s right for your child.

What is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?

Human Papilloma Virus is a common virus in humans all over the world. This virus can cause warts, genital warts, and several types of cancers. The cancer types that can result from HPV infection include mouth and throat cancers, cervical cancers in females, penile cancers in males, and anal cancers in both sexes. Most humans will have some type of HPV infection in their lifetime, and many will clear it on their own without developing these problems.

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention.

The vaccine has been available for many years to prevent the most dangerous types of HPV infections including some types of cancers, and it is administered to children from ages 9 and up. Pediatricians and family doctors can vaccinate children when they are in for well care or at another visit when the child is well enough to receive vaccinations.

HPV vaccines can be given with Tdap and Meningitis vaccines, or by itself. Currently, HPV vaccination is considered complete when a child has received two doses, if the vaccine is started prior to age 15, and three doses if started at age 15 or older.

Is the HPV vaccine safe? What are the side effects?

HPV vaccine is very safe and has been studied extensively in the United States and around the world. Like any vaccine, HPV vaccine can cause pain, redness, or swelling at the site of administration. This is normal. Some children and teens may faint when receiving shots, so we will have your child remain seated for a period of time after receiving HPV vaccine.

Is the HPV vaccine required for school?

School requirements vary from state to state. At this time, the HPV vaccine is not required for school attendance in the state of North Carolina. However, school requirements often lag medical recommendations by many years.

My child is not sexually active. Why does he/she need the HPV vaccine?

It is very important to vaccinate your child for HPV prior to any exposure. Children have the most protection if they complete the vaccination before beginning sexual behaviors.

Isn’t HPV vaccine for girls only?

No, the HPV vaccine is for both boys and girls. Boys can be exposed to human papillomavirus (HPV) and develop penile or anal cancers. Like girls, boys can also develop mouth and throat cancers and possibly genital warts if they are exposed to HPV.  The vaccine is safe and effective for all children.

If you have additional questions, talk to your child’s doctor for more information. You may also find excellent information about HPV vaccine cancer prevention at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

About Karen Todd, MD

Dr. Karen Todd is a pediatric specialist at WakeMed with clinical interests in the prevention and evaluation of child maltreatment and neglect. She also enjoys working with SAFEchild Advocacy Center as a child medical examiner.

Dr. Todd completed her medical education at East Carolina University and completed her residency at Duke University. Recently, Dr. Todd completed her Masters in Public Health (MPH) in Public Health Leadership at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Request an appointment with Dr. Todd today.