National Immunization Awareness Month
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are more than 150 types of HPV, and HPV infection is quite common. Most of the time, infection with HPV does not cause health problems and just goes away on its own. People usually do not even know they have it. However, in some cases, HPV does not go away. When that happens, some types of HPV can cause genital warts, while other types can lead to cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36,000 people are affected by a cancer caused by an HPV infection each year in the United States. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. The virus has also been linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.
HPV gets passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact with an infected part of the body. It can be spread through sexual contact. You cannot get HPV from toilet seats, swimming pools, or sharing food. Almost everyone who is not vaccinated will get HPV at some time in their lives.
Vaccinations can protect people from getting the types of HPV that most often cause genital warts and cancer. The vaccinations work best when given to young people. The HPV vaccination is recommended at ages 11-12 years but can be given starting at age 9 years.
National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to stress the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective to protect against cancers caused by the HPV infection. More than 135 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed since it was licensed in 2009.
Vaccinating your child against HPV protects them from getting infected with HPV when they are older. Even if someone waits until marriage to have sex, they could still get infected with HPV from their spouse. The vaccine does not lead to changes in sexual behavior. Studies show young people who get the vaccine do not start having sex any earlier than those who did not get the vaccine.
American Cancer Society recommendations:
- Routine HPV vaccination for children should be started at age 11 or 12. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.
- HPV vaccination is also recommended for females 13 to 26 years old and for males 13 to 21 years old who have not started the vaccines, or who have started, but not completed the series. Males 22 to 26 years old may also be vaccinated. *
- HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 for men who have sex with men and for people with weakened immune systems (including people with HIV infection), if they have not previously been vaccinated.
*For people 22 to 26 years old who have not started the vaccines, or who have started, but not completed the series, it is important to know that vaccination at older ages is less effective in lowering cancer risk.
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