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4 Reasons to Have Your Teen Vaccinated for HPV

Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, approximately 14 million new infections occur each year.

The reason these numbers are alarming is not only because HPV is sexually transmitted, but also because certain strains of HPV can cause cancer – the CDC reports that 27,000 U.S. men and women are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer each year, which is a new case every 20 minutes.

HPV isn’t one single virus, but rather a group of more than 150 virus strains, some of which are proven to cause cancer.

Because of how prevalent HPV is and how serious its complications can be, there’s a big push for parents to get their teens fully vaccinated against the disease to slow or stop the rate at which people are getting infected and prevent the cancers it can cause.

Here are four reasons Dr. Steven Shapiro, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health, says you should have your teens vaccinated.

1. It’s safe

There are three HPV vaccines, all of which are safe, effective and recommended by the CDC.

“The bottom line is this is a very good vaccine – it has been well thought out and developed very carefully,” Dr. Shapiro said.

Like all vaccines used in the U.S., HPV vaccines were required to go through years of extensive safety testing before they were licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each HPV vaccine was closely studied in clinical trials to ensure its safety.

Even after these clinical trials showed HPV vaccines to be safe and effective, the FDA and CDC continue to monitor them for any safety issues, which is standard protocol for all vaccines in the U.S.

2. It’s effective

“The vaccine provides complete or almost total immunity against the particular viral strains [of HPV] that cause cervical cancer,” he said.

The HPV vaccine is given in three doses and there is a recommended timeline on when to receive each dose – it’s important that your teen receive all three doses in order to build immunity against HPV.

3. It may protect against other forms of cancer

While women are at risk of HPV causing cervical cancer, HPV can also lead to other genital cancers, as well as anal and oropharyngeal (middle throat) cancers.

“The [vaccine] has shown to positively affect outcome for cervical cancers and it is expected that HPV vaccination will reduce the incidence of middle throat cancers, but this has not yet been documented,” Dr. Shapiro said.

4. It helps stop the spread of the disease

Although particular viral strains of HPV can cause severe complications in women, getting both boys and girls vaccinated can slow or stop the spread.

“Boys don’t necessarily get serious complications [from HPV], but they can carry it from one partner to another,” Dr. Shapiro explained.

HPV vaccination is the best defense to stop infection and prevent HPV-related cancers.

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