What do I ask my pediatrician about the HPV vaccine?

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • As a mother, you are faced with certain realities.  Teens are having sex, and your ability to know whether your teen will use common sense and protection, or talk to you before making a decision to have sex, is really unpredictable.  Experts say that HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is at epidemic levels, meaning the likelihood that your daughter will be exposed to HPV is quite high.  HPV is also a silent disease, so both male and female carriers may not be aware that they have it.  Two specific strains of HPV cause 70% of cervical cancers; two other strains cause 90% of genital warts.  Cervical cancer has a high mortality rate and can present as an asymptomatic disease until it reaches an advanced stage.  So the relatively new vaccine, Gardasil, was heralded as a huge medical achievement, because it targets these four dangerous types (Type 6, 11, 16, 18) of HPV.  So how do you decide if Gardasil is a good choice for your young daughter?

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    Below you will find a series of questions that you can take to your doctor, so you can thoroughly discuss whether or not the vaccine is a good choice:


    At what age do you administer the vaccine? Why start at such a young age?

    Is this a single vaccine or a series?

    Is there an age range during which time the vaccine is considered safe and effective?

    Does the vaccine prevent all types of cervical cancer?

    Does the vaccine protect against other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)?

    Does the vaccine offer 100% protection against HPV?

    Does the vaccine have any side effects?

    I have heard that some patients who received the vaccine fainted - is that common?

    Is there a downside or serious outcome from taking this vaccine?

    Can you have HPV and still take the vaccine (if I decide to have it given at a later date)?

    How does the vaccine work?

    Can you get HPV from the vaccine?

    Are there long term studies on this vaccine's safety and effectiveness?

    Will my daughter have to take the vaccine again, later in life, to continue protection?

    Will my daughter need a PAP smear first before getting the vaccine?

    Will she no longer have to have PAP smears once the vaccine is administered?

    Do I need to tell my daughter what the vaccine is for?


    Remember that every parent has the right to make their own determination about health choices for their children.  Talking to your doctor and getting the facts can help you to make some of these important medical decisions.  For more information check out www.gardasil.com.  


Published On: June 16, 2009