An Underused and Important Vaccination

Did you know that only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys between 13 and 17 years of age have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV)? Did you know that boys could receive the HPV vaccination? While the vaccine has been heavily marketed to girls, both in the media and in doctors’ offices, it provides protection for both young women and young men. In fact, HPV cases in female teenagers between 14 and 19 years of age have decreased 56 percent since the vaccine was introduced in 2006.

Most people who contract HPV don’t actually know they have it. This could be because they don’t recognize signs and symptoms or because they don’t have any. More than 40 types of HPV can be spread through direct sexual contact. High-risk HPVs can cause cancer.

How does it work?

The HPV vaccine is an option for young women and men starting at age 9 and going through age 26. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over the course of six months. This is because it only protects against HPV if given before a person is exposed to the virus.

Every year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Women who are vaccinated against HPV have a much lower chance of developing cervical cancer than those who aren’t. The vaccination doesn’t only reduce the chances of developing life-threatening conditions like cervical cancer, it also reduces the risk of passing HPV on.

Whether you are a young woman still eligible for vaccination or you have children who are the correct age to start, the HPV vaccination is an investment in your or your child’s future health. Studies suggest the protection offered is long-lasting, and a decade of research has shown no evidence of it weakening. If you have any questions about the vaccination, speak with your doctor.

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