For both males and females, a vaccination is available to protect against infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is associated with many cancers and genital warts. About 14 million Americans, including teens, are infected annually. Most infections go away on their own and do not cause serious problems, however, thousands of people get cancer and other diseases from HPV. Receiving the HPV vaccine is one of the best ways to protect yourself. The CDC recommended age for the HPV shot is between ages 11 and 12 although patients can receive the vaccine as early as age nine and until age 26; the earlier the vaccine is administered the better protection the patient will have against the virus.

There are no risks to the vaccine, which is given as two or three shots (depending on the age of the patient.) Patients receiving the vaccine before their 15th birthday will receive two shots while those receiving the shot on or after their 15th birthday will need three shots. If, for some reason, you are not able to complete the vaccine on schedule, there is no need to start over. However, you should complete the series of HPV shots for it to be fully effective.

Although HPV vaccination protects against certain strains of HPV, you should still follow regular pap smear guidelines starting at age 21, as well as make annual wellness visits with your physician.

For more information regarding HPV and the recommended vaccination, please visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6549a5.htm.

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