Blog: Why are HPV vaccines recommended for children and adolescents?

Published: March 21, 2023

Three children in front of school bus

Sooner is better than later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommend HPV vaccination at ages 11 to 12.

It’s best to get the HPV vaccine as soon as possible — well before adolescents become sexually active and are exposed to HPV. Plus, adolescents who start the HPV vaccine series before they turn 15 only need two shots because their immune response to the vaccine is stronger at a younger age. Those who start the HPV vaccine series at 15 or older will need three shots for full protection.

Exposure to HPV — which stands for human papillomavirus — can lead to genital warts and six types of cancer. Finishing the HPV vaccine series before coming into contact with HPV protects adolescents’ health both now and in the future.

“We’re doing what we think is best for families,” said Paula Cuccaro, PhD, principal investigator of All for Them. “This is something that's really important. Parents can prevent their children from having cancer as adults and going through that suffering. Our goal is to keep people from getting HPV-related cancers in the future. If we can keep one individual from having to go through what some of the survivors whom we have met have gone through, to me, that's a victory.”

All for Them is a vaccination initiative run by UTHealth Houston School of Public Health that coordinates free school-based vaccine clinics at select campuses in six Texas school districts. Students can obtain all needed childhood and adolescent immunizations at an All for Them clinic — including the HPV vaccine.

Members of the All for Them team often connect with families in the communities they serve during back-to-school events, health fairs, and more. These outreach and education efforts offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to parents about their questions about the HPV vaccine and other topics.

“The team has counseled parents for many years now, and they do so in such a way that it gives parents the agency to be able to make those decisions,” Cuccaro said. “Sometimes, a parent is very concerned about vaccinating their child. Our team speaks with them. We've seen those parents come back with their kids after having had the chance to think about it, do their own research, and get their kids vaccinated. To me, that's a very exciting turn.”

There’s extensive evidence that the HPV vaccine is safe. This vaccine has been in use for 17 years, and years of evidence shows no harmful short-term or long-term side effects for this vaccine. In fact, the positive “side effect” is the many years of cancer protection the HPV vaccine will provide.

Efrat Gabay, All for Them senior program manager, recalled an interaction with a parent that she witnessed at a recent clinic. A mother at the clinic did not consent to her daughter getting the HPV vaccine.

“We talked to her, asked her what her thoughts and concerns were, provided her with some accurate information, and really encouraged her to think about getting her child vaccinated,” Gabay said.

Less than two months later, the mother returned — and brought both of her daughters to get the HPV vaccine.

“It’s an example of the difference we’re making in real people’s lives, knowing these girls are going to be protected,” Gabay said. “It makes that extra time that we take worth it.”

Find a free vaccine clinic in a school district near you at www.AllForThemVaccines.com.

Questions? Visit our FAQ page or contact the All for Them team at 866-255-1811.