The Misunderstood Vaccine
It goes without saying that vaccines save lives. Many diseases that were prevalent in the past, such as polio and diphtheria, are becoming rare thanks to vaccinations. Yet there is one vaccination that has caused a lot of confusion yet has the propensity to protect against cancer.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world with one in four Americans infected with at least one strand of the virus. Virtually all sexually active people will be infected with the virus at some point in their life and while most infections will resolve on their own, some won’t (approximately 26,000 each year). These are the cases that end up causing a variety of cancers later in life, such as anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, mouth, throat, vaginal and vulvar cancer.
Thankfully, a vaccine is available that protects against getting these cancers. Yet in 2013 only 37.6 percent of girls and 13.9 percent of boys age 13-17 were fully vaccinated. The primary reason: a lot of misunderstanding. According to a Planned Parenthood study, 40.6 percent of those surveyed did not vaccinate their child because of “safety concerns.” Let’s get the facts on HPV and the vaccine to protect against it.
- HPV Causes Cancer
The biggest and most importance misconception is that HPV can cause cancer. Parents want to do the best for their child and if they can arm them with a defense against many cancers, most would jump at the opportunity. The HPV vaccine is that defense.
- Vaccine Efficacy
The new 9-valent Gardasil HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective against genital cancers in women between the ages of 16 and 26. In addition, it is effective against 9 strains of the HPV. Another very important study found that if uninfected populations were vaccinated with Gardasil 9, approximately 90 percent of all cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers worldwide could be prevented.
- Vaccine Safety
There has been much controversy over the safety of the Gardasil vaccine, but the facts speak for themselves. Over ten million people have safely received the vaccine. According to the FDA, the most common side effects of the vaccine include headaches, swelling, redness and pain at the injection site.
- Vaccination Against HPV is Only for Girls
HPV occurs in both men and women. The vaccine not only protects against 70 percent of cervical cancers, it also protects against 90 percent of genital warts in both men and women.
- Only Sexually Active People Should be Vaccinated
The best time for vaccinating against HPV is between the ages of 11-12. This is because the body needs time to build up a resistance to the virus before exposure. The vaccine is administered in a series of three separate shots spaced two months and six months after initial vaccination. The vaccine is also most effective in younger people. While the most common way to contract HPV is through sexual activity, it can be transmitted to non-sexually active people. Don’t wait for your child to become sexually active to vaccinate them.