During a well check for a preteen boy, the mother looked at me in surprise and said, “I never heard that boys also need the HPV vaccine.”
Although there has been quite a bit of media attention about the HPV vaccine in recent years, there has not been enough communication to patients and their parents. Some common reasons for the lack of communication are a hesitancy to discuss how the HPV virus is contracted and the idea that the vaccine gives teens permission to be involved in intimate relationships.
My goal is to open a line of discussion and counseling with the patient and their guardian about the vaccine as part of their overall health goals.
Why do boys and girls need the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women; penile cancer in men; and anal cancer and mouth/throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, as well as genital warts in both men and women.
Should boys also get the HPV vaccine?
Yes. This vaccine helps prevent boys from getting infected with the types of HPV that can cause cancers of the throat, penis and anus. The vaccine also prevents genital warts. When boys are vaccinated, they are less likely to spread HPV to their current and future partners.
When should my child be vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. HPV vaccine is most effective during the preteen years. If your teen has not received the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it for them as soon as possible.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
HPV vaccines are safe. Scientific research shows the benefits far outweigh the potential risks. Like all medical products, vaccines can have some side effects. The most common side effects associated with HPV vaccines are mild. The most common side effects are fainting, dizziness, nausea, headache, and pain as well as redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given. The HPV vaccination is typically not associated with serious side effects.
Where can I learn more?
For more information about the HPV vaccine and the other vaccines for preteens and teens, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse. For detailed information about the HPV vaccine, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.
Dr. Zainab Al-Obosi is a family physician at Madison Health Primary Care of London. To make an appointment, please call 740-845-7500. The practice is currently accepting new patients, including adults and children.