Students: stay healthy, reduce cancer risks, complete your HPV vaccination series


Greenstein, June M (Student)

Graphic by Meimei Greenstein.

By Mira Dwyer

In case you forgot, here’s a reminder: schedule that last doctor’s appointment to finish the HPV vaccination series.

The Human Papillomavirus infection vaccination is a series of three shots given to all people between the ages of 11 and 26 to protect against strains of HPV known to cause cancer. In a Black & White survey of 196 Whitman students across all grades, 21.9 percentor 43of students reported not receiving all of their recommended doses of the HPV vaccination. Of these 43, 11 said they aren’t planning to complete the series. Some students said that they didn’t think the vaccine was necessary or said they kept forgetting to finish the series.

This is unacceptable; students should treat HPV vaccination as just as much of a priority as any other vaccine or medical recommendation because it’s imperative to promote sexual health.

Students read and hear about the importance of regular exercise and healthy eating for years, but they shouldn’t view sexual health as any less important than physical health. Many cancers linked to HPV don’t develop until years after a person contracts the virus, NIH Infectious Disease Specialist Tara Palmore said. Similar to exercising and eating properly, HPV vaccines can affect long-term health and wellness, so students should recognize HPV’s risks and take precautionary measures to ensure healthy futures.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States and affects approximately 79 million Americans, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly all cases of cervical cancers can be attributed to high-risk HPV types, and HPV can cause many other cancers too, including in men, according to

The best way to protect against HPV is the vaccination series. According to the CDC, the vaccination has decreased the number of people contracting cancer-causing HPV strains: HPV vaccine research has yielded a 77 percent reduction in HPV types that are responsible for approximately 75 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Although high schoolers’ lives are busy, it’s essential they work the full vaccine treatment into their schedules, especially because once in college, it often becomes harder to coordinate doctor appointments. By neglecting it, not only are they more susceptible to the virus, but they may increase its rate of transmission, which is both socially irresponsible and personally harmful.

While the vaccination requires parental consent, students still have the responsibility to recognize the importance of sexual health. If a student isn’t comfortable talking to their parents about the matter, they should speak to their doctor privately or reach out to another trusted adult.

With all the risks that HPV brings, students should treat the vaccination as a health priority. So, now’s the time to go schedule that appointment with your doctor.

To learn more about HPV and the vaccination, visit here.