HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. There are more than 150 strains of HPV -- some go away on their own, others can cause genital warts, and some even cause cancer. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and it is a great reminder to get the HPV vaccine! The best way to protect yourself from HPV now and in the future is to get vaccinated and make sure you complete the series of two or three doses. Here’s more information about the HPV Vaccine:
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
While only people with a uterus are at risk for cervical cancer, HPV can cause other types of cancer and genital warts in anybody. Also, getting the HPV vaccine helps protect any partners you may have in the future. Therefore, it is recommended that all young people age 11 or 12 get two doses of the HPV vaccine. It is possible you were vaccinated in middle school, but if you weren’t or if you only got one dose, it’s ok! ANYONE under the age of 26 can and should get the vaccine (and even some people older than 26), but it is best to get it as soon as possible. For people age 15 or older, they will receive three doses of the HPV vaccine. If you only got one does, you should be sure to get the remaining doses you need. REMEMBER: Even if you are not having sex now, it’s important that you get the HPV vaccine so you are protected in the future.
How Do I Get Vaccinated?
For most teens, the HPV vaccine will be FREE! It is covered under most insurance, and if you are uninsured or unable to pay for the vaccine, there are programs to help you. When you visit a clinic or doctor, ask them if your insurance covers it or if you qualify for a free program. In order to start the HPV vaccine, visit a clinic near you or go to your doctor. If you are 15 or older, you will receive three doses of the vaccine spread out over six months. Your doctor will tell you when to come back for your next dose. It is important to receive all three shots. If you only received one dose in the past, check with your doctor about making up the additional doses.
Do I Need My Parent’s Permission?
No, you don’t need your parent’s permission, but it’s always helpful to talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your medical care. The HPV vaccine is considered a confidential, or private service. This means that teens can get the vaccine without their parents’ permission or without anyone finding out.
What Else Can I Do to Protect Against HPV?
Abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to protect against all STDs including HPV. If you do choose to have sex, even if you have received the HPV vaccine, using a condom can help protect against sexually transmitted diseases like HPV and can also prevent pregnancy. Find free condoms near you!
January is Cervical Cancer Prevention month and the best way to protect yourself is to get the HPV vaccine! Find a clinic near you to own your health!