(The Daily Dish) Today we are talking with Dr. Bill Cosgrove, a retired pediatrician and an advocate for the health and wellbeing of Utah’s Children. He joined us to talk about the importance of the HPV Vaccine for boys and girls as young as 9 years old.

Unfortunately, the HPV virus will infect almost all of us (80%) in our lifetimes, It does not cause any symptoms, so we would not know if we are contagious but the virus can cause 6 different types of cancer. The HPV vaccine protects adolescents and adults from the infection, and also from developing the associated cancers.

Although the vaccine is recommended starting at age 9, you can still get the vaccine up to age 45 and it is very safe, very protective, and your family will have six fewer cancers to fear.

HPV is the abbreviation for human papillomavirus. There are about 100 types of HPV viruses and some of these types cause cancer. The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention for your child. It is the only vaccine available to prevent six types of gender-specific cancer.

The vaccine is given as a shot, in two doses, six months apart at your doctor’s office. Both boys and girls should be vaccinated to protect them from gender-specific cancers including cervical cancer and cancer of the throat, tongue, and tonsils. All six types of cancers that can be prevented with the HPV vaccine are listed here.

The vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls between the ages of 9 to 12 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control or CDC and the Utah Department of Health’s Cancer Control Program.

Why preteens? The vaccine is recommended for preteens — specifically between the ages of 11 and 12 so that they are protected before ever being exposed to HPV. If your children are older than 11 or 12 they should still be vaccinated. While getting vaccinated at 9- 12 is recommended, you can get the vaccine up to age 45.

The FDA and the CDC have given the HPV vaccine an excellent safety record. Numerous safety studies have been conducted and there is no evidence that the HPV vaccine causes safety or reproductive problems. Over 250 million doses worldwide and 170 million doses of HPV vaccines have been given in the United States.  The FDA has continually monitored the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine since it was approved in 2006.

The HPV vaccine is made from only a single protein from each type of cancer-causing virus. It can’t cause HPV, and it can’t cause any type of cancer. At the injection site, there can be side effects including redness or tenderness, possibly a low-grade fever or nausea. These are very similar to side effects that can be experienced with other vaccines or medications.

It’s important to point out that the long-term protection against cancer far outweighs any potential risk of short-term side effects. The HPV vaccine has been studied now for two decades and during that time there has been no sign of the vaccine losing any of its effectiveness in individuals that received the vaccine that long ago.

Unfortunately, Utah’s vaccination rate is too low. Less than 50 percent of adolescent boys and girls in our state are receiving the HPV vaccine. But, it’s not about rates. It’s about each child and their health. Parents, you can protect your child from six types of cancer by getting them vaccinated.

You can visit the Utah Department of Health website or talk with your doctor to find out more information or to schedule your families vaccines!

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