Don’t skip your kid’s HPV vaccine

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

By Deb Balzer

There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, a viral infection that commonly causes warts. But some types of HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, penis, vagina, vulva and throat.

These infections are often transmitted sexually or through other skin-to-skin contact. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cancer.

Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases physician, says if you have a preteen, make sure he or she gets vaccinated for HPV now. It could prevent your child from getting cancer later in life.

Watch this "Mayo Clinic Minute" video to hear Dr. Rajapakse explain the importance of the HPV vaccine for preteens:

Sitting in a health care provider's office can be scary for anyone, especially a kid awaiting a vaccination. But not as scary as HPV.

"The scary thing about this virus is that it also is a virus that can cause cancer," Dr. Rajapakse says.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. About 85% of all people will become infected at some point in their lifetime.

The vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls. And it can be given during a well-child visit.

"You want to vaccinate kids before they're ever exposed to this virus. Once you've been infected with the virus, the vaccine is no longer effective in preventing infection with that strain of the virus."

Dr. Rajapakse says the vaccine can be given to those as young as 9 and up to age 45.

"This is a really effective, really safe vaccine that is unique because it is a vaccine that prevents cancer."

A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.