Starting the HPV vaccine series at age 9 could prevent future cancers
Although 85% of people will get the human papillomavirus, or HPV, infection in their lifetime, HPV vaccination rates are significantly lower compared to other vaccines in Iowa.
The typical recommendation has been for providers to initiate the vaccine at age 11 or 12 years. However, both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state the series can be started at age 9.
“Studies show that the series completion rate is twice as high for those initiating the HPV series at age 9 compared with those who start at 11,” says Melanie Wellington, MD, PhD.
For this reason, many health experts nationwide—including physicians at UI Health Care—encourage beginning the HPV vaccination at age 9 to lower the risk for certain cancers.
HPV vaccination is cancer prevention
HPV can cause several kinds of cancer. Only cervical cancer can be detected early with a screening test. The other cancers caused by HPV may not be detected until they are more serious. HPV vaccination prevents infections that cause these cancers.
"Iowa continues to rank first or second in the U.S. for the highest rates of oropharyngeal cancer,” says Natoshia Askelson, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health for the College of Public Health. “So, it’s important that we get kids vaccinated so we can bend that curve and see these rates improve within the next 20 years.”
The HPV vaccine is typically administered to boys and girls from ages 9-12 in two doses that are given 6 to 12 months apart. Most children only need two doses of the HPV vaccine if they are vaccinated before 15 years of age.
“Another advantage for patients to get the HPV vaccine at age 9 is that they won’t have to take so many shots at their 11–12-year-old appointment,” says Wellington.
Parents and guardians can take advantage of visits to their child’s health care provider to discuss and receive the HPV vaccine and other recommended vaccines, including visits for: