Children 11 to 14 years old need only two doses of the HPV vaccine, not the previously recommended three doses, to protect against cervical cancer and other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

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Children 11 to 14 years old need only two doses of the HPV vaccine, not the previously recommended three doses, to protect against cervical cancer and other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

But teenagers and young adults who start the vaccinations later, at ages 15 through 26, should stick with the three-dose regimen, the centers said.

The new advice is based on a review of studies showing that two doses in the younger group “produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in young adults (aged 16 to 26 years) who received three doses,” the centers said in a statement. The two doses should be given at least six months apart, the agency said.

The statement noted that the two-dose schedule will make the process simpler for families and could increase the number of young teens who get the vaccine. Despite its proven effectiveness, immunization rates are low.

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HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, according to the disease centers. They are spread by intimate, skin-to-skin contact, and by vaginal, oral and anal intercourse. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people become infected at some point.

In most people, the immune system destroys the virus. But in some, the infection lingers. Some viral strains cause genital warts, and others can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis and back of the throat.

Vaccination is urged for preteens and early teenagers, ideally before they become sexually active, because the vaccine works best before a person is exposed to HPV. But it still offers some protection to young people who have had sex.