Why Your Daughter Should Get the HPV Vaccine

A young woman basking in the sunlight
PhotoTalk / Getty Images

Although human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus transmitted through sexual contact, the HPV vaccine is not just a vaccine to prevent against a sexually transmitted disease (STD). HPV can lead to cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer, vulvar cancer, and genital warts, and the role of HPV in the development of other cancers continues to be a subject of research.

In June 2006, the FDA approved the use of Gardasil, an HPV vaccine, in young women ages nine to 26. It was replaced by Gardasil 9, which was approved in 2014 and covers nine HPV types. When the doctor mentioned "Gardasil" they are talking about Gardasil 9 as it is the only vaccine currently available in the US.

The CDC recommends a two-dose HPV vaccination schedule with a target age of 11 or 12 years but it can be started as early as age nine and recommended through age 26 for those who haven't been adequately vaccinated previously. CDC recommends a 3-dose schedule for people who get their first dose on or before their 15th birthday.

In October 2019, the FDA expanded the approval of the HPV vaccine to include men and women age 27 to 45. The decision of whether or not to get the vaccine during this time should based on a shared decision between the adult and their healthcare provider.

Updated HPV vaccination guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend routine HPV vaccination beginning at age 9. The ACS recommendation is intended to produce earlier vaccination rates overall. Although the vaccine is indicated through age 45, ACS recommends against vaccination in anyone older than age 26 due to lower projected efficacy in this older population. Most people have been exposed to HPV by that age. 

Why Girls Should Get the HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccination in younger girls introduces a few critical benefits:

Gardasil greatly reduces the chances that your daughter will develop cervical cancer. Among other strains, Gardasil 9 protects against strains 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers. About 300,000 women are diganosed with cervical cancer each year worldwide - and in the US about 4,000 die annually from the disease. 

Because Gardasil does not protect against all types of HPV, women who are vaccinated still need to have regular Pap smears to detect any precancerous changes. The vaccine does not replace the Pap smear and regular Pap smears are necessary for optimum cervical health.

Updated cervical cancer screening guidelines from ACS now suggest that people with a cervix undergo HPV primary testing — instead of a Pap test — every five years, starting at age 25 and continuing through 65. More frequent Pap tests (every three years) are still considered acceptable tests for offices without access to HPV primary testing. The previous ACS guidelines, released in 2012, advised screening to begin at age 21.

Gardasil protects young girls from the common HPV strains that can cause genital warts. Vaccinated girls are protected from the strains of HPV (6 and 11) that are responsible for 90% of genital warts. Genital warts can appear as cauliflower-like growths that can occur on, within, and around the vagina. They also can appear as flat growths that aren't prominent and can go unnoticed. Although genital warts do not pose any immediate health risk, they can be embarrassing for many women and can cause feelings of shame.

Gardasil greatly reduces the risk of developing other potentially life-threatening types of cancer. Vaccinating your daughter will greatly reduce the risk of her developing precancerous and abnormal vaginal and vulvar lesions that could become cancerous. The same types of HPV that cause cervical cancer are also linked to vaginal and vulvar cancer. Although less common than cervical cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer are serious types of cancer that can be life-threatening.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Papillomavirus (HPV): HPV Vaccine Schedule and Dosing. Updated August 15 2019.

  2. Saslow D, Andrews KS, Manassaram-baptiste D, Smith RA, Fontham ETH. Human papillomavirus vaccination 2020 guideline update: American Cancer Society guideline adaptation. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020; doi: 10.3322/caac.21616.

  3. World Health Organization. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. Updated January 24 2019.

  4. Fontham ETH, Wolf AMD, Church TR, et al. Cervical cancer screening for individuals at average risk: 2020 guideline update from the American Cancer Society. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;10.3322/caac.21628.

Additional Reading