Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections are very common and nearly all individuals will be infected with a type of HPV at some point in their lifetime. It is estimated that approximately 80 million Americans are currently infected and about 14 million become infected each year. This number includes infections in adolescents and young adults. There are more than 100 types of HPV and the majority of individuals will clear an HPV infection in one to two years, but some types will go on to cause cancer. Medical director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Jasmine Reese, M.D., shares the top three things parents should know about the HPV vaccine.
Why is the HPV vaccination important?
HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 2015, oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer rates have surpassed cervical cancer and is now the most common HPV-associated cancer in the United States. In the past, pediatricians have focused on stressing the importance of HPV vaccines to prevent cervical cancer in women, but now we also know that other HPV related cancers are increasing. This means we need to make sure we are educating our families and patients on the importance of getting the HPV vaccine as early as possible.
When should you get the HPV vaccine?
The CDC recommends routine vaccination for boys and girls at age 11 or 12 but the series can be started as young as age nine. For children and teens younger than 15, the vaccine is given as a two-shot series, six months apart. For teens who are 15 or older, the vaccine is a three-shot series. The vaccine is recommended for everyone up to age 26.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
Yes, the HPV vaccine is safe and studies of this vaccine have been very reassuring. Possible reactions that may occur include mild pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, or headache. A brief fainting spell can happen after any vaccination, not just the HPV vaccine, although this is rare. The HPV vaccine should not be given to someone who had an allergic reaction to a previous HPV shot.
If you are not sure if your child is ready for the HPV vaccine, reach out to your pediatrician and ask for more information. Pediatricians are happy to have these discussions and want to keep your kids and teens safe, as well as help prevent cancer.
Learn more about the HPV vaccine in this Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital On Call for All Kids segment and visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories for more on the latest pediatric health topics.
About the Author: Dr. Reese is the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic within the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. She is also the adolescent medicine rotation director for the pediatric residency program. She joined the Johns Hopkins All Children’s medical staff in 2016 and serves as a full-time assistant professor of pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Reese’s clinical interests include reproductive health and mental health, and her research focuses are medical education and curriculum development in adolescent mental health and depression. She is an active member of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, where she also serves as the secretary for the southeast United States region.
Dr. Reese earned her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and an adolescent medicine fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.