This vaccine, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, is recommended for boys and girls of middle school age, before they are even exposed to the virus. Here’s why.

HPV causes common genital infections and is transmitted through sexual contact. More than 80 percent of sexually active individuals will be infected with at least one type of HPV in their lives. A person who has had only one partner can get an HPV infection.

Most HPV infections go away within one to two years and do not cause cancer. Some people don’t even realize they are infected. However, some HPV infections can lead to certain types of cancer.

The HPV vaccine is very effective in preventing HPV infections when given before a person is exposed to the virus. This means it should be given before a person is sexually active.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that both boys and girls get the vaccine during the same visit as their tetanus and meningitis shots.

The vaccine is given in a three-shot series and is recommended to begin at age 11 or 12 years, although it can be given to children as young as 9 years of age. Both men and women who have not been vaccinated can receive the HPV vaccine until age 26 years.

Like other vaccines, the HPV vaccine is covered under your medical plan. Be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine.