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What is HPV?

How a vaccine can protect you

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common virus. About four out of five people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most infected people do not know they have it.

Most HPV infections go away on their own without lasting health problems. But, HPV is linked to various kinds of cancer, including cervical cancer. There is no way to know which infections will turn into cancer, so the best way to prevent HPV infection External Site is to get vaccinated.

"The HPV vaccine is more than 97 percent effective at preventing infection from types of HPV that cause most HPV cancers," said Dr. Bill Jagiello, Wellmark's medical director. "However, it must be given before your child is exposed to the virus. That's why it's important to schedule an annual well-child visit with your family doctor to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and discuss any additional health concerns."

Iowa's HPV-vaccination rates are above the national average

While HPV-vaccination lags behind other adolescent vaccines, Iowans see its benefit more than others across the country. According to a new Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Association study External Site, 31 percent of adolescent Wellmark members in Iowa received the initial dose of the CDC-recommended HPV vaccination by their 13th birthday. This is above the national average of 29 percent. Further, 10 percent of adolescent Iowans completed the full three-dose HPV regimen by age 13 in 2016, which is above the national average of nine percent.*

The cost of an HPV-vaccination is relatively low for most. All Wellmark health plans cover the cost of the vaccine. If you don't have insurance, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program External Site covers the cost of the HPV vaccine. It also covers the cost of other vaccines for free up to age 19 for families without insurance or without enough insurance.

Wondering if your child should get the HPV-vaccination? Talk about it with your pediatrician or personal doctor.

*In October 2016, the CDC changed the adolescent HPV vaccination recommendation from three to two doses, starting the vaccine series before the child's 15th birthday. The report defines a completed regimen as three doses. The second dose of the HPV vaccine should be given six to twelve months after the first dose. It is recommended for teens and young adults who start the series at ages 15 through 26 to complete three doses of the HPV vaccine.