If there was a vaccine available with the ability to eradicate some types of cancer, would you get it? Would you give it to your kids?
The good news: there is such a vaccine, and it’s called the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine prevents infection from the strains of HPV that are most responsible for the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle) throat, other genital cancers and genital warts.
Vaccine timing is critical
So, at what age is it recommended for your kiddos to get their vaccine? As with others such as measles, mumps, rubella, and Hepatitis A and B, the HPV vaccine is indicated for children. Recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart; adolescents and young adults 15 and older should continue to complete the three-dose series.
According to Dr. Ronald Stewart, MD, an OBGYN at Banner Health Clinic in Loveland, Colorado, “Administration of the vaccine to young men has only recently been approved but in some models seems to be more effective overall in preventing the long-term consequences of HPV infection.”
“When the vaccine is administered prior to any sexual activity, it is more than 97% effective at preventing significant HPV sexually transmitted infections, which is why it’s recommended for this young age group” says Dr. Stewart. However, administration of the vaccine after someone has already began engaging in sexual activity, or even after a previous HPV infection, is still indicated. “After the age of 26 the benefit of vaccination is not clearly demonstrated,” says Dr. Stewart.
Is the vaccine safe?
Without an advanced degree in medical science, it can be difficult for parents to know what is safe for their kids. Here’s what Dr. Stewart has to say:
“The HPV vaccine is made up of portions of the viral capsule and does not contain any genetic material.“ As a result, there should be no significant risk of receiving this vaccine, and this has been proven in the large studies.” Dr. Stewart says that although the current vaccine is relatively new, different forms of it have been available for long enough to study potential risks in large population groups.
More good news: the latest version of the vaccine is also more effective! The HPV vaccine currently administered in the U.S. covers the nine most significant forms of the virus; the previous vaccine covered only four strains.
Are you ready to explore the HPV vaccine for your child? Contact a Banner Health pediatrician to schedule an appointment to discuss your options.