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HPV Vaccine for School Girls

Immunization Basics

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Updated January 23, 2010

Gardasil is an HPV vaccine that has been approved by the FDA to prevent cervical cancer in girls between the ages of 9 and 26 years of age.

The Gardasil vaccine actually protects girls who get the vaccine against 4 types of HPV, or human papillomavirus, including the two types that cause most cervical cancers and the two types that cause the most genital warts.

Since Gardasil prevents HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, it is important that it be given before people become sexually active. In fact, the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all recommend that Gardasil be routinely given to girls when they are 11 or 12 years of age.

In fact, some states may begin requiring that school girls receive Gardasil. Texas was the first state to try and mandate that all 11- or 12-year-old girls attending public schools receive the HPV vaccine. That would mean that they would get it when they were entering the sixth grade. The state legislature enacted a law overturning the Texas governor's orders that kids receive the HPV vaccine though.

Considering that Texas has one of the highest rates of high school students who have had sex, requiring the HPV vaccine at an early age might have been a good thing. According to the CDC 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 52% of Texas high school students reported that they have had sex versus a national median of 44% of high school students in the rest of the United States.

HPV Vaccine Controversy

Although Gardasil itself has been controversial, having a state require it for all school girls may become even more controversial.

Some experts think that Gardasil may lead to controversy because some parents will have problems thinking about giving a vaccine against a STD to pre-teens. Other parents might not want a vaccine against an STD at all, believing that their children could not be at risk, even though most reports show that half of high school students are having sex. And still others think that Gardasil might encourage promiscuity, since it could foster the belief that it protects against STDs.

Whether or not you think giving your child the HPV vaccine is a good idea, or choose to sign some kind of a waiver so that she doesn't have to get it, which will be available in Texas, talking about Gardasil also gives you a good opportunity to talk to your child about STDs and other risks of having sex at too early an age, such as teen pregnancy.

Also keep in mind that it isn't unusual for a state to require a child to receive a specific shot to attend school, as most require school children to receive most of the other vaccines in the childhood immunization schedule, such as those for tetanus, hepatitis B, chickenpox, and measles, etc.

What You Need To Know

  • Gardasil is given as a three dose series, with the second and third doses being given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.

  • Gardasil is also approved for boys and men, ages 9 through 26, to prevent genital warts (condyloma acuminata) due to certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Although it is recommended that Gardasil be routinely given when a girl is 11 or 12 years old, it can be started as early as the 9th birthday.

  • Girls who are older than 11 or 12 can still be given the HPV vaccine and it is recommended that all girls between the ages of 13 and 26 also get Gardasil.

  • Cervarix is another HPV vaccine that can be given to girls to prevent HPV.

  • According to the CDC 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 47% of high school students report having had sexual intercourse and 34% of sexually active students said that they didn't use a condom the last time they had sex, which puts them at great risk for STDs, such as HPV.

  • Abstinence is still the goal for teens and young adults, but even if your child waits until she is married to have sex, since there is a high chance that her partner could have HPV, unless it is his first time too, the HPV vaccine she gets while in school will hopefully protect her then too. Keep in mind that researchers have not yet figured out how long the protection from the HPV vaccine lasts, but like other vaccines, if it isn't lifelong, then a booster dose could always be added later.


Source:

CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2005. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006;55(SS-5):1–108.

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