Why Is the HPV Vaccine Recommended for Adolescents?

Paul A. Offit, MD, explains the reasoning behind giving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescents and who else may benefit from the vaccine.


Why is the HPV vaccine recommended for adolescents?

Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I wanted to address the question, “Why do adolescents get the HPV vaccine?” So, HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It’s a virus that causes anal and genital warts. It’s a virus that causes cancers of the head and neck and anal and genital region. Every year in this country, HPV causes about 30,000 cancers and accounts for about 5,000 deaths from those cancers.

The reason that we give that vaccine for adolescents, which is to say primarily the 11- to 13-year-old age group, is that’s a platform during which we give other vaccines. We also give the Tdap vaccine during adolescence. We also give the meningococcal vaccine. So, this is then becomes the third vaccine that’s given during that period of time. So, it provides an easy platform for adolescents to come and get the vaccine. Now, the vaccine can actually be given down to 9 years of age; it is licensed down to 9 years of age, so sometimes that’s more convenient. The other thing is the vaccine is also licensed up to 45 years of age, and because the vaccine contains nine different serotypes, it’s certainly virtually impossible for older adults to be infected with all nine of those serotypes, so they too would benefit.

So, I think the reason we give this vaccine for adolescents is it’s a convenient time. Of course you would want to give that vaccine before people have sex because it’s only a preventive vaccine, or prophylactic vaccine; it’s not a therapeutic vaccine, and that’s why we need to give it before people have sex. So, the 11- to 13-year-old age group, or adolescent age group, works well.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Mar 25, 2020