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Getting ready to go back to school means a flurry of preparations for parents. Kids need an array of school supplies, clothing, shoes, backpacks and pep talks. Another preparation that should be high on the list: immunizations.

In Florida, children are required to have a range of vaccines before they can be enrolled in school. The Florida Department of Health notes that for children entering kindergarten through 12th grade in any public or nonpublic school, vaccinations are required for:

  • Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP)
  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap)
  • Varicella (chickenpox), unless there is a history of varicella disease documented by a health care provider

For parents of children ages 9 and older, experts recommend an additional vaccine that serves a crucial role: protecting them from developing certain cancers later in life. The HPV vaccine, which has been approved for use since 2007, provides protection against nine types of the human papillomavirus, which is known to cause cancer. In fact, HPV causes 1 in 20 cancers worldwide.

Approximately 90% of cancers caused by HPV can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine is cancer prevention — plain and simple.
Dr. Anna Giuliano, Founding Director, Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer

Roughly 80% of people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. Most people will clear the infection, but persistent infection can lead to cancer. The vaccine targets the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and can cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus and oropharynx. It also protects against the types of HPV that cause most genital warts.

The vaccine is approved for children as young as 9 through adults up to age 45. Doctors say the best time to vaccinate children is early, ages 9 to 12.

Dr. Anna Giuliano, founder of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center, says the vaccine is most effective when given at a young age, but is just as important for teenagers, young adults and even some adults.

“Approximately 90% of cancers caused by HPV can be prevented by vaccination,” Giuliano said. “The vaccine is cancer prevention — plain and simple.”