What You Need to Know About the CDC’s New HPV Vaccine Recommendation

HPV shots protect against cervical cancers, but only a small percentage of adolescents get them. The CDC is hoping their new protocol will change that.

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Partly in an effort to entice more young girls to avail themselves of protetction against cervical cancer, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a change in the number of HPV vaccine shots required for them, effective immediately, sciencedaily.com reports.

According to the revised recommendation, 11- to 12-year-old children can now receive only two injections of the HPV vaccine, at least six months apart, instead of the original requirement of three. “Safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers with two visits instead of three means more Americans will be protected from cancer,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, told sciencedaily.com. This recommendation will make it simpler for parents to get their children protected in time.”

The previous recommendation of three shots remains in effect for those first getting the vaccine at age 13 and up.

As of last year, only about half of teenage girls were getting the vaccine at the recommend age, which was troubling to medical professionals, given that the vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of cervical cancers and HPV-associated cancers. HPV is quite common in the United States, affecting more than 20 million Americans, and some 11,771 new cases of HPV-associated cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to CDC data.

Many people die from cervical cancer and HPV-related cancers because there are no clear cervical cancer warning signs to watch for, so the disease often isn’t detected until it reaches more advanced stages.

The HPV vaccine protocol for girls and boys can typically begin at the same time as the meningitis vaccine, and it’s a good idea to follow the CDC’s timetable, even though it’s well before your child will become sexually active, advises Robert Edwards, MD, in the department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC, Pittsburgh. Though the vaccine can be given up to the age of 26, it’s most effective early on, before there’s been any sexual activity. “Many parents may think their child won’t become sexually active, but studies show that at age 16 many are making their sexual debut,” Dr. Edwards says. “If you haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine, once you begin to get sexually active, there’s less efficiency in getting the vaccine as a young woman.”

With more than 40,000 Americans dying each year from HPV-related illnesses, Edwards strongly recommends that parents consider the future health of their child and get this potentially lifesaving vaccination, which is now only two injections instead of three. Learn more about how the virus is spread, how to recognize HPV symptoms, and about the HPV vaccine for girls. For parents concerned about vaccinations in general, here are 10 vaccine myths you can safely ignore.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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