You've probably heard that a HPV vaccine can protect women against cervical cancer. In fact, the vaccine may be most effective when given to girls and young women. However the strains against which the HPV vaccine provides protection is limited. The vaccine does provide cover against the most prevalent strains (learn all about Cervical Cancer).
What Are the Benefits of the HPV Vaccine?
The main benefit of the vaccine is protection from cervical cancer.
Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix. In 2006, the FDA licensed Gardasil, the first cervical cancer vaccine. In 2007 Cervarix was approved. However, they don't protect against all types of cancer-causing HPV. Vaccines protect against these four types of HPV:
These types are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts (learn more about warts).
What parents should know about the HPV or Cervical Cancer Vaccine
Does your daughter need the HPV vaccine to help protect against cervical cancer?
Pap screening in girls and young women should be recommended as follows:
Within 3 years of becoming sexually active.
By age 21.
Most girls taking the vaccine will probably need fewer Pap smears taken at longer intervals over their lifetimes.
Has your daughter already been infected with HPV virus?
If so, receiving the vaccine won't prevent disease from that particular type. However, the HPV vaccine will protect against infection from the other HPV strains included in the shot.
Why Should Girls Receive the HPV Vaccine?
Full benefit of the HPV vaccine occurs only if you receive it before you're infected with any of the HPV strains included in the vaccine. That's why, vaccinating girls between ages 11 and 12 is recommended .Ideally, this is before they become sexually active. The HPV vaccine can also be given to girls as young as 9 and to girls from age 13 to 26 who have not received it earlier.
You may question whether 11 or 12 is too early to vaccinate, the vaccine has been shown to be more effective in immunizing against HPV when it is given to younger girls who have never been infected with the dangerous HPV strains.