This post is made possible with support from the American Cancer Society. All opinions are my own.
Last month, my teenager had his yearly physical and got his first dose of the HPV vaccine. My girls will also be getting the vaccine when they are between 9 and 12 years old, but I wasn’t always open to this vaccine.
As a new mom back in the 2000s here in Texas, I remember when Governor Rick Perry attempted to make the HPV vaccination mandatory, and it made people mad. Back then I didn’t understand the need to vaccinate young tweens for what I thought was just a sexually transmitted disease. I thought that was a crazy idea…until I found out more.
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Almost everyone is exposed to HPV in their lifetime.
Did you know that 8 in 10 people will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime? It’s literally everywhere, and it’s not just girls and women. Boys and men can get HPV, too.
HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually-active will get HPV at some time in their life if they don’t get the HPV vaccine.https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
Not only can it cause genital warts, but there is really no specific treatment for HPV. It can also cause 15 types of cancers:
While there is a screening test for cervical cancer (the PAP smear), there are no screening tests for these other cancers.
This is the big reason why I want my kids to get the HPV vaccine. It’s 90% effective in preventing these cancers, which is such an easy way to keep our kids safe for later in life.
Why does age matter for the HPV vaccine?
For the best protection, it’s important to be vaccinated before a child is exposed to HPV. Plus, ages 9-12 is when their immune systems are at their peak. Completing the series before age 13 is THE best way to make sure your child is protected.
Most people have been exposed to HPV by the age of 26, which is why it’s not recommended after that age.
How safe is the HPV vaccine?
This was my biggest worry. I feared that it was a newer vaccine, and they didn’t know much about the safety and side effects. Then, I learned from our pediatrician that this vaccine has been out for more than 10 years.
It came out in 2006 and has had a long track record. It has been studied a lot. There have been 109 studies since that time. There have also been more than 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine given worldwide, including 100 million here in the U.S.
There have been no reports of serious negative side effects. The only side effects—similar to the flu or other adolescent vaccines—found are mild ones such as redness, headache, and dizziness.
My son had some mild redness and swelling in his arm, and it was gone by the second day.
I wished he had been vaccinated for HPV sooner. Now that he’s 16, he has to get a third dose instead of just two doses for 9-12 year olds.
Texas is lagging way behind in HPV vaccinations.
In Texas, we rank just 39th out of 50 states in HPV vaccination completion for kids ages 13 to 17. Only 43% of our kids are getting vaccinated for HPV. We can do better!
Can you imagine when our kids are our ages? HPV might become a thing of the past if we can get most of our kids vaccinated here in Texas.
It’s already happening! There have been significant drops in HPV infection rates in teen girls and young women, and cervical precancers have gone down 40% in women who’ve been vaccinated.
What can YOU do?
There are a few things you can do:
#1 It’s still important to keep your kids health checks and vaccinations up to date, even now in the pandemic. I’ve taken two of my kids to the doctor for well checks since the pandemic started, and it’s a much better experience now. There is hardly a wait time, and everything is super duper clean. Plus, we get to wait in the car instead of a waiting room full of sick kids.
#2 Learn more about the HPV vaccine at American Cancer Society.
#3 Talk to your pediatrician about getting the HPV vaccine for your daughters AND sons, especially if they are 9-12 years old as well as for your teens. Your doctor can answer your questions and help relieve any worries you have about the vaccine.
Not sure what to say? Here’s a few questions to ask:
- How can I lower my child’s risk for HPV-related cancer?
- I know the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls 9 – 12 years old. Could you tell me more about it? I think I’d like to get this vaccine for my child.
- What should I do to help my child be more comfortable after the HPV shot today?
Let’s Do This, Texas!
This is cancer prevention in a vaccine! It’s simple. It’s safe, effective, and can give our Texas kids long lasting protection from cancers caused by HPV.