LiveSmart: HPV Vaccine – Is the Message Making it to Families?

[This piece was written by Mark Osborn, M.D., Chief of Pediatrics for St. Peter’s Hospital, and a provider with St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center.]

The facts are clear – the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is cancer prevention and it can’t wait.

Every year in the United States, 14 million people, mostly young adults, become infected with HPV. More than 26,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed annually in women and men, with more than 4,000 women dying each year in the U.S. from cervical cancer alone.

The good news is, the rate of HPV vaccine use among adolescents has risen steadily over the past five years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest numbers from 2017 reveal 66 percent of adolescents aged 13-17 years received their first dose to start the vaccine series.

While that steady trend upwards is encouraging, it is worth noting about half of adolescents (51 percent) have not completed the HPV vaccine series. To realize the full benefit of the vaccine, getting the necessary number of doses is critical.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Not only does the immune system respond better at the recommended 11- to 12-year-old range when initiating the HPV vaccine series, but protection begins immediately after the recommended doses are given.

Three doses over six months will be necessary if the child begins receiving the vaccine after the age of 14, or if they receive their two shots less than five months apart. Also, three doses are still recommended for people aged 9 through 26 years with immunocompromised conditions.

For parents concerned about side effects of the vaccine, data confirms that HPV vaccine has a similar safety profile as other vaccines recommended for this age group. Parents should discuss HPV and other vaccine updates with their child’s pediatrician at every annual well child visit, as the recommendations from the AAP change annually.

More information about the need to keep children on schedule for routine vaccinations is at

St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center, 1092 Madison Avenue in Albany, offers a complete range of services for children from newborns to age 18. Services include well-child routine care, sick child exams, school and camp physicals, sports physicals, immunizations, health maintenance and education, and access to other hospital services and referrals to specialists. Call 518-525-2445 for more information or an appointment.

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