Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety & Prevention
Text Size
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest

How to Talk to Your Preteen About the HPV Vaccine

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children get 3 doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at ages 11 to 12, or during the teen years if they missed getting it sooner. . HPV can cause cancers of the mouth, throat, anus and genitals -cervix and vulva in females, penis in males - and genital warts. There are about 26,000 of these cancers each year—and most could be prevented with HPV vaccine. This information below will help you talk with your child about the vaccine.

What do my child and I need to know about HPV disease and HPV vaccine?

The key facts about HPV and HPV vaccine are:

  • Certain strains of HPV cause genital warts and cancers of the cervix, mouth, throat, anus and genitals.
  • Receiving 3 doses of HPV vaccine before your child is exposed to the virus can prevent many cases of these cancers and genital warts.
  • HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls when they are 11 to 12 years old. The HPV vaccine is more effective when given at this age rather than waiting until a child is older.
  • HPV is easily spread, especially among teens and preteens – even by intimate skin-to-skin contact.
  • Even someone who waits until marriage for sex and only has one partner can still get HPV.   

If I want my child to get the HPV vaccine, will he think I approve of teen sex?

A study showed that preteens and teens who got HPV vaccine did not start having sex at an earlier age than those who did not receive the vaccine.  If you are concerned that your child will assume you are “giving them permission to have sex,” tell your child what’s important to you.


“I think you are much too young for sex, but it is important for you to be as protected as possible when the day comes. That is why you should get the HPV vaccine now.”

Pediatricians recommend HPV vaccine for preteens ages 11 to 12 because younger people have a stronger immune response to the vaccine.  Also, people need all 3 doses before being exposed to the virus in order to be fully protected. Remind your child that when he/she does become sexually active, it will still be important to practice safe sex to prevent pregnancy and other diseases.

If I haven’t had “the sex talk” with my child, should I start now?

You do not have to discuss sex with your preteens before giving them the HPV vaccine. However, if you and your child are ready to have this conversation, now is a good time to start.  Many children receive sex education in school at about age 11 or 12. When you talk about sex don’t focus only on infections and pregnancy. Also, share facts and give your child guidance about making smart, safe choices around sex. The key is to let your children know that they can freely come to you with questions about sex.

Additional Information: 

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2013)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest