The human papilloma virus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, with more than 20 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). HPV is most common in women and men in their late teens and early 20s. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired HPV infection.
In 2006, the FDA approved the first vaccine to prevent infection with HPV. Several strains of HPV have been identified. The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against strains 16 and 18, which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers, and against types 6 and 11, which cause about 90 percent of genital warts. The vaccine does not protect against HPV strains 31 or 45, which can also cause cervical cancer. The vaccine, which does not contain live virus, is approved for females ages 9 to 26.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the vaccine for three age groups: all girls between 11 and 12; girls and women 13 to 26 years old who have not received the vaccine; and women who have had abnormal Pap smears, genital warts or certain other conditions.
The vaccine is given in three doses over six months. For more information on the HPV vaccine, please call your pediatrician's office. If you need a pediatrician for your child, visit our online directory.