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Why do 9 year olds need HPV vaccine?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against HPV infection and HPV-related diseases. HPV is very common, and most people will get infected at some point in their life. While HPV often clears on its own without causing problems, it can sometimes persist and lead to cancer and other diseases later in life. The HPV vaccine offers safe and effective protection, especially when administered at younger ages like 9 years old. Here are some key reasons why the HPV vaccine is recommended starting at age 9:

HPV is most effective if given before exposure to the virus

The HPV vaccine produces better immune responses and protection if given prior to any exposure to the HPV strains it protects against. Most children don’t encounter HPV until they become sexually active in their teen years or later. Starting the vaccine series at age 9 allows time to complete the series and develop immunity before any potential HPV exposure.

Younger children have a stronger immune response

Studies show that children aged 9-12 years have a stronger immune reaction after HPV vaccination compared to older adolescents. The vaccine triggers higher antibody levels in preteens, which may provide longer-lasting protection.

The vaccine is safe and effective for this age group

The HPV vaccine has been extensively tested in clinical trials and monitored in large safety databases. No serious safety concerns have been identified. Most side effects are minor like pain or redness at the injection site. The vaccine has high efficacy (~90%) against HPV infection and precancerous lesions in 9-12 year olds.

Earlier vaccination provides longer lasting protection

Starting the vaccine series at age 9 provides earlier protection that lasts longer over time. Models estimate decades of cancer prevention by targeting HPV vaccination in preadolescents. Catching kids up in their teen years is still beneficial but may offer less durable immunity.

HPV infection risks

Catching HPV infection early provides the best opportunity for prevention. Here are some stats on how common and risky HPV infection is:

HPV is incredibly common

– 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV
– 14 million new HPV infections every year
– Most sexually active adults get infected at some point

HPV causes 6 types of cancer

– Cervical cancer: Nearly all cases caused by HPV
– Anal cancer: 91% linked to HPV
– Oropharyngeal cancers: 70% associated with HPV
– Vaginal cancer: 75% related to HPV
– Vulvar cancer: 69% linked to HPV
– Penile cancer: 63% associated with HPV

HPV causes 90% of genital warts

– 360,000 cases of genital warts every year
– Most common viral STD in the U.S.
– Causes itching, discomfort, and psychosocial distress

HPV is easily transmitted

– Passed through intimate skin-to-skin contact
– Condoms provide only partial protection against transmission
– A person can transmit HPV even without symptoms

HPV vaccine safely and effectively prevents infection

The HPV vaccine provides incredible benefits by preventing infection with the HPV types that cause cancers and genital warts.

Near 100% effective at preventing infection

In clinical trials, the HPV vaccine was 97-100% effective at preventing infections and precancers caused by the target HPV types in teens and preteens. Real world data confirms its strong effectiveness.

Lasts at least 10 years, likely longer

Ongoing studies show HPV vaccine protection has persisted for at least 10 years with no signs of waning immunity. Experts expect even longer protection into the future, especially with vaccination starting at younger ages.

Covers 9 types of HPV

The HPV vaccine provides protection against 9 different HPV types:

– Types 16 and 18: Cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancers
– Types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58: Cause another 20% of cervical cancers
– Types 6 and 11: Cause 90% of genital warts

Over 270 million doses administered safely

Since introduction in 2006, over 270 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed globally. Monitoring data continues to show an excellent safety profile. The most common side effects are brief soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site.

HPV vaccination aligns with recommended schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccination at age 11-12 to align with other recommended vaccines and well child visits.

Two doses recommended at ages 9-14

Children aged 9-14 years need 2 doses of HPV vaccine separated by 6-12 months. Starting at age 15, three doses are recommended.

Can be co-administered with other preteen vaccines

The HPV vaccine can be safely administered at the same visit as other routine childhood vaccines including:

– Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis)
– Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
– Influenza vaccine

Routine vaccination maximizes uptake

Experience with other vaccines shows that adherence is highest when vaccination is incorporated as part of routine preventative care starting at younger ages. Most parents follow the CDC’s recommended schedule.

HPV vaccination protects across the lifespan

The protection from HPV vaccine can last decades, effectively safeguarding children as they grow into adults. It’s important for long-term prevention of HPV-related diseases and cancers.

Prevents HPV-related cancers

Most HPV cancers don’t develop until later in life. Starting vaccination at age 9 protects all the way into adulthood when cancer risks become relevant.

Avoids need to “catch up” later

Trying to vaccinate teens and young adults who missed the shot is challenging. Vaccination rates are much lower. Routinely vaccinating at age 9 ensures the majority of the population will be protected.

Covers children before any HPV exposure

Nearly all 9-year-olds will be HPV-naive, allowing the vaccine to provide maximum cancer prevention benefits down the road by blocking initial infections. Catching HPV early in adulthood undermines these benefits.

HPV vaccine uptake lags behind other preteen vaccines

Despite being recommended for over a decade, HPV vaccine rates significantly trail other routine childhood immunizations. Closing this gap will take focused efforts.

Vaccine U.S. Adolescents Up-to-Date
Tdap 90%
Meningococcal 87%
HPV 68%

– HPV vaccine initiation and completion rates have increased only minimally in recent years
– Significant disparities remain between states and demographic groups
– Lowest rates among communities with highest cervical cancer rates


The HPV vaccine is tremendously effective at preventing HPV infections that cause 6 types of cancer and genital warts. When started at age 9, it provides optimal protection that can last decades throughout the lifespan. HPV vaccination aligns with the already busy recommended vaccine schedule for preteens. Routine administration will provide population-level reductions in HPV disease and eliminate disparities in coverage. Catching up teens and adults is also beneficial, but maximizing adherence requires starting HPV immunization at age 9 before any exposures occur. Achieving higher HPV vaccine uptake will take a coordinated effort, but the exceptional benefits for cancer prevention make it well worth it.