By Kristin Vollrath, FP-Board Certified
The start of a new school-year is a busy time, but also great yearly reminder that preventive health measures are due. One important way our clinic partners with families to protect future health is through the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine – a safe, effective, and routine vaccination which prevents many types of cancer and disease.
What is HPV?
HPV is a very common virus-nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. It is estimated that 75-80% of males and females will be infected with HPV throughout their lifetime. Each year 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV. In fact, the highest rate of new HPV infection is among people ages 15-24 years. Although some cases of HPV clear on their own, the United States still sees 27,000 new cases of HPV related cancers each year-that’s a new case of cancer every 20 minutes!
Why get the HPV vaccine?
Our office is a strong supporter of the HPV vaccine as numerous organizations, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend vaccinating ALL boys and girls. We feel that the HPV vaccine is a vital tool for cancer prevention, as studies have shown HPV disease to cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and throat cancers in both men and women.
Since the vaccine came on the market over 10 years ago, over 67 million HPV shots have been given in the U.S. alone. Many studies have proven it to be extremely safe and effective. In fact, a recent study by the CDC showed the HPV vaccine cut HPV disease rates for teen girls in half.
The HPV vaccine also has a good safety record. Like other shots, the HPV vaccine has mild side effects including pain or redness at the shot site, headache, and fever. Fainting rarely occurs, though this is a common side effect of all adolescent vaccines, not just the HPV shot.
Who should be vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine is given as a series of 2 or 3 shots. If the first HPV is given prior to the 15th birthday, it is given in a 2 dose series. If the first dose is given after the 15th birthday, it is a 3 dose series. Like any vaccine, the HPV vaccine is most effective if given long before disease exposure. It’s important to vaccinate your child on time as the vaccine has a 2-3 times greater immune response, and thus effectiveness, when given to younger adolescents. Vaccinating at 11 or 12 years provides your child with the best cancer protection, and also allows your child to be vaccinated at fewer visits since other preteen shots are already due at their 11 and 12 year physicals.
Like you, we want to protect your child in any way that we can – getting the HPV vaccine is a great way we can partner in doing this. Even if your child is over 12 years it’s not too late to vaccinate or complete the series-give us a call today to setup an appointment to get your child vaccinated!