Willows Pediatrics Blog - We Know Kids
We Know Kids
The Willows Pediatrics Blog

Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine – Myth vs. Reality

If you could protect your child against a cancer-causing virus with three doses of a safe and effective vaccine, why wouldn’t you? While most parents are committed to vaccinating their child against all vaccine preventable diseases, some parents are still reluctant to have their child receive the HPV vaccine. In response to these concerns, Willows Pediatrics wants to remind families about the benefits of the vaccine and why we recommend it.

Why worry?

Human Papilloma Virus is a very common sexually transmissible disease. According to the CDC, about 79 million people in the United States currently are infected with HPV, and another 14 million become newly infected each year. More than 33,000 HPV associated cancers are seen each year in the United States.  Most of these cases are cervical cancer, followed by oropharyngeal cancer in men.  HPV is also the most common cause of genial warts in men and women.

But does the vaccine work?

Yes! Studies from around the world show HPV vaccine dramatically reduces the number of infections for the strains of HPV targeted by the vaccine. For example, there was a 56% reduction in prevalence of HPV strains 6, 11, 16, and 18 in adolescent girls in the United States (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) despite the fact that only 33% of girls received all three doses. In Australia, there was a 77% reduction in prevalence of HPV strains 6, 11, 16 and 18 in adolescent girls within three years of vaccine introduction (with a three-dose immunization rate of 70%). These are only two examples of the many peer-reviewed studies showing the efficacy of the HPV vaccine in both women and men.

Ok, but is the vaccine safe?

HPV vaccine has been meticulously studied in both girls and boys. Since 2006, about 57 million doses have been distributed in the United States alone, and the vaccine has not been associated with any long-term side effects. As with other immunizations, most side effects are mild, and consist mainly of pain or redness in the arm in which the vaccine is given. These effects quickly subside.

I see why you recommend the HPV vaccine, but why do you want me to vaccinate my 12 or 13 year old – she (or he) does not have any risk factors for being exposed to the virus now?

There is a simple medical reason for this – the antibody response to the vaccine is better when it is given at a younger age.  We also know that data on persistence of antibody shows high antibody levels against Human Papilloma Virus are maintained many years post-immunization, so your child does not need a booster dose of HPV vaccine even if they are immunized at 12 or 13 years of age.

That all makes sense, what do I do now?

HPV vaccine is given as a three dose series. Most families have their child get the first dose at an annual physical exam or check up. You can then bring your child back in one or two months for the second dose, and six months after the first dose for the third and last dose. If you don’t want to wait for a check up, you can start the HPV vaccine any time. Just talk to your Physician, Physician’s Assistant or nurse.

Image by Michael 1952 via Flickr.com