The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, when their immune system will have the best response to the vaccine.
But some parents are hesitant to have their children get the vaccine because they associate the HPV vaccine with sexual activity or scared of potential side effects.
“Getting the HPV vaccine doesn’t mean you’re encouraging your child to become sexually promiscuous or even sexually active,” says Lori Stevens, program manager in the Office of Health Policy at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Getting the HPV vaccine is a no-brainer.” She recommends that parents follow these tips when talking to their kids about the HPV vaccine.
Leave sex out of the conversation if you’re not comfortable talking about it.
“A conversation about the vaccine doesn’t have to be a conversation about sex,” Stevens says.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection but HPV is so common that almost 80% of men and women contract the disease at some point. It can be spread through vaginal or oral sex as well as intimate skin-to-skin contact. Although most cases of HPV clear up on their own, but some became genital warts or cancer.
When discussing the HPV vaccine with your children, it’s important to stress that the vaccine is being used for cancer prevention over the course of their lifetime.
“Tell your kids that the shot will keep them from getting an HPV infection and is expected to help protect them from up to six types of cancer,” she says.
The HPV vaccine should be treated just like any other vaccine.
Tell your children this is just one more shot they need to get along with their other vaccines.
“The HPV vaccine should be treated just like any other vaccine,” Stevens says.
Talk to your child’s doctor about including the shot with the regular vaccines for your child at this age. If it’s not offered, bring it up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and many others recommend the shot be given along with the Tdap vaccination (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whopping cough)and the meningococcal B vaccine (the vaccine for meningitis) at age 11-12 in all boys and girls.
Remind your children that the shot is safe and effective.
“Some parents and their children may worry about side effects,” says Lois Ramondetta, professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at MD Anderson. “But the HPV is safe and effective.”
The most commonly reported side effects from the vaccine are mild redness and swelling at the sight of the shot. There is no evidence that links the vaccine to adverse or severe reactions.
“Those very minor risks associated with the vaccine are well worth it,” Ramondetta says. “This vaccine could help wipe out certain types of cancer.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.