Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that will infect up to 80 or 90 percent of sexually active people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some types of HPV infections can persist and lead to cancer, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
"We [The Carroll County Health Department] consider the HPV vaccine as a vaccine that helps to prevent certain types of cancer," said Health Planner Maggie Kunz.
According to the CDC, more than 29,000 cases of HPV-related cancers each year could be prevented with HPV vaccination.
"[HPV] is so common and many people can have it without knowing it," Kunz added.
According to the CDC, the vaccine is most effective when administered between ages 11 and 12 when the individual will have the strongest immune response to the vaccine.
Kunz said two other vaccines are given at this age, meningitis and Tdap vaccines, which are required for children to enter seventh grade. The vaccines will be offered by CCPS to sixth-graders in the spring, Kunz said.
While the HPV vaccine is not required and will not be offered in schools, the health department hopes to partner with the school system so they can offer information and encourage parents and guardians to speak to their child's health care provider.
Most HPV vaccines are administered by pediatricians and family practice doctors, Kunz said.
For children without insurance, the health department has Child Immunization Clinics which offer HPV vaccines. To make an appointment at one of the clinics, call 410-876-4920.
Although the vaccines are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, there was initially reluctance from parents to vaccinate their children after the vaccines were first introduced. According to Times reporting from 2014, at that time only 33 percent of girls and a drastically lower percent of boys were completing vaccination.
Some of the reluctance may come from the fact that most HPV infections come from sexual contact and parents or guardians may be uncomfortable with addressing this topic. Kunz said a helpful resource is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics called "How to Talk to Your Preteen About the HPV Vaccine."
"When the vaccine was first available, there was a lot of misinformation about reactions to being vaccinated," Kunz said. "However, clinical data shows that this vaccine carries no greater risks of side effects than other vaccines."
According to the CDC, "the most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given; dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache."
The CDC's Immunization Safety Office monitors the safety of the vaccines.
For more information on HPV vaccination and cancer prevention the Maryland Department of Health's page on HPV is one of many online resources available.