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Unexpected COVID side effect – kids’ HPV vaccinations down

Help us get cancer-preventing HPV vaccination back on track.

Girl getting vaccinated Photo:: Getty Images

Dramatic drops in annual well visits and immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a significant decline in vital preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents—especially for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. With that in mind, VCU Massey Cancer Center is urging parents to get their kids ages 11-12 vaccinated against HPV. Young adults are also advised to get the HPV vaccine if they haven’t already done so.

Nearly 80 million Americans — 1 out of every 4 people — are infected with HPV, a virus that causes cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus and back of throat. Of the nearly 80 million people infected, nearly 36,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Vaccination can prevent these cancers.

Getting the vaccine does not imply that your child is sexually active. Getting the vaccine at a young age is a preventive step for when that time comes — whether it’s tomorrow, 10 years from now or later.

The U.S. has recommended routine HPV vaccination for females since 2006 and for males since 2011. Current recommendations are for routine vaccination at ages 11 or 12 or starting at age 9. Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended through age 26. Adults aged 27 through 45 should talk with their health care providers about HPV vaccination because some people who have not been vaccinated might benefit.

The HPV vaccine series consists of two doses for children, who get their first dose at ages 9 through 14, and three doses for those who get their first dose at ages 15 and older. Immunocompromised people also get three doses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently authorized COVID-19 vaccination for 12-15-year-old children. This means your children may receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and any missed doses of routinely recommended vaccines, such as HPV, at the same time.

As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center — one of only two in Virginia, one of only 71 across the country — VCU Massey Cancer Center strongly encourages you to vaccinate your children and teens as soon as possible.

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