To Your Health: HPV (Part 2)

Apr 24, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year in the United States, 33,700 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90% of these cancers from ever developing.

SoutheastHEALTH reports that though the HPV vaccine has been available for more than a decade, the overall percentage of the number of girls and boys obtaining the vaccine is still low. In 2017, the national average was about 50 percent for girls and 42% for boys. In Missouri, it was far less, with 28  percent of girls and 11 percent of boys. Saint Francis family nurse practitioner Dolores J. McDowell states that the HPV vaccine is the only current immunization that protects against cancer.

So, why aren’t people getting the vaccine? The Journal of Ethics described several reasons, including worrying that vaccination promotes promiscuity, fearing side effects, and suspecting pharmaceutical companies achieved FDA approval through corporate influence. No research has shown an increase in sexual activity as a result of the vaccine, the side effects are similar to other vaccines, and, most importantly, the HPV vaccine has been proven safe and effective.

Area pediatricians are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines and recommend the HPV vaccine to 11- or 12-year-olds in the same way and on the same day as Tdap and meningitis vaccines. Completing the HPV vaccine series at this age provides two major benefits: the immune system of young adolescents responds best to provide protection and the vaccine must be completed prior to HPV exposure.