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Why is the HPV vaccine recommended at such an early age?

March 4, 2015

Pediatrics Corner: Why doctors recommend HPV vaccine for pre-teens


  • Medical School
New HPV vaccine protects against nine types of cancer.

A new version of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against nine types of cancer—more than twice as many as the existing vaccine, according to new research in the New England Journal of Medicine. But, according to an accompanying NEJM editorial, there is still much work to be done in convincing Americans to have their pre-teen children vaccinated against HPV, with only 57 percent of girls having received the first dose.

Pediatrician Anne Powell, MD, said many families don’t understand why the existing HPV vaccine is recommended for children beginning at ages 11 and 12. HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and causes numerous types of cancer, including cervical.

“Many parents ask me, ‘If this virus is sexually transmitted, why are we giving it to children so young?’” said Dr. Powell, assistant professor of pediatrics. “The answer is twofold: First, our hope is to immunize the entire population long prior to the onset of sexual activity. Second, the body’s ability to form an immune response is much more robust at the younger ages than it would be if we waited until late adolescence or adulthood.”

Learn more about the HPV vaccine in this Pediatrics’ Corner video.