Research has found that in 2014, four out of 10 girls and six out of 10 boys had not started the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended HPV Vaccine Series, leaving them vulnerable to cancers caused by human papilloma virus-related infections, such as cervical, vulvar, and anal cancer.
More than 17,000 women and 9,000 men are affected by this preventable virus each year.
Now, the AAP has released an updated immunization schedule, which includes new recommendations for the HPV vaccine.
According to a press release, the 2016 schedule reflects the latest recommendations on vaccines from birth through age 18, and includes these updates as it pertains to HPV:
"This recommendation is because children at this age have literally no risk of ever having been exposed, and that gives us the best chance of protecting them against a number of very serious and relatively common cancers," Alix Casler, M.D., FAAP, medical director of pediatrics at Physicians Associates - Orlando Health, explained to Parents.com.
So why aren't all parents vaccinating their kids?
"Parents' biggest concern is probably that it's difficult to think about their children becoming sexually active," Dr. Casler said, adding, "but that's the whole point of immunizing at 11 to 12 years old. At [that age], the response to vaccines is superb... and guarantees excellent protection later on when it will matter."
Her advice is to keep the conversation about sexual safety completely separate; in fact, that discussion may come much later. The bottom line, she says, is this: "If parents are well-informed and talk to their pediatricians, their family practitioners, or go online to the CDC website, they will find that the HPV vaccine is exceedingly safe with essentially no serious side effects noted after over 70 million doses given worldwide."
Did you or do you plan to get your child vaccinated?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.