Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that is responsible for causing both cervical cancer and genital warts. Other subtypes of HPV (not in the vaccine) also cause the benign common wart.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, includes 4 subtypes that are responsible for causing 70% of cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts. Over 80% of sexually active women become infected with HPV, though 91% of the infected women do clear the infection without any long-term implications. It is the patient who cannot clear the infection who is at risk for cervical cancer. Pap smears screen for pre-cancerous changes than can, in most cases be treated, but it is best to prevent rather than treat cervical cancer.
The vaccine is approved for girls between the ages of 12 and 26. It is best given before a girl becomes sexually active in order to protect her from all 4 viral subtypes contained in the vaccine. Even if a girl has initiated sexual activity and might be infected, it is unlikely that she is infected with multiple types. Therefore, the vaccine is still recommended as it would protect against the other subtypes.
Weston Pediatrics recommends giving the vaccine to high school students as they are most likely to be at risk for exposure in the next several years. However, any young teen who may be contemplating sexual activity in the near future should be vaccinated.
You may schedule an appointment with a nurse to administer the 1st of 3 vaccines.
If you have any questions, please discuss the appropriateness of this vaccine for your daughter with her primary care doctor.
For further complete information, please go to the CDC Web site.