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Simply put, yes. Even though most parents tell me it's scary to think that their preteen daughters will one day be sexually active women, it's smarter for girls to be vaccinated early on before there's a chance they could be exposed to the virus. Just as you most likely got your daughter a Hepatitis B vaccine to prevent that often sexually transmitted disease (maybe you didn't know it was!), you'd also be doing the right thing to protect her against this other virus that can be dangerous to adults.
HPV infects more than 6 million Americans a year and can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. It's estimated that the vaccine, which is given as a series of three shots over six months, could prevent about 10,000 cases of cervical cancer in 25 years, and it's most beneficial if it's administered before someone becomes sexually active. Getting your daughter vaccinated is one more thing you can do now to help her have a healthy future as an adult when you'll no longer be in charge of safeguarding it.
And remember that the HPV vaccine only protects against four strains of the virus (there are more than 100) so even girls who have been vaccinated can get other strains. So when the time comes, it's important to talk to your daughter about safe sex. All sexually active girls -- vaccinated or not -- should receive regular Pap smears (a screening test that can detect irregular cells before they become precancerous or cancer).
Copyright © 2007. Originally published in the March 2007 issue of Child magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.