HPV: Should both my daughter and my son be receiving this?
As a parent, nothing is more important than the health of your child. Car seats, helmets, good nutrition and regular check-ups that also include vaccines. One of the newest vaccines on the list is Gardasil, the vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus.
WHAT IS HPV?
HPV is a widespread virus that, in the United States, will infect an estimated 75% to 80% of males and females in their lifetime. There has been a lot of publicity about the significant consequences of HPV infection in girls: cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Certain strains cause genital warts in both males and females. Now there seems to be a link between esophageal cancers and HPV in men who have been infected.
According to new research, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) may be responsible for the development of oral cancer in men to a greater extent than previously thought. Statistics show that in the past four decades, incidence of oral cancer caused by HPV has risen to a point where it now equals the incidence of oral cancer caused by alcohol and tobacco. If this trend continues, HPV will surpass alcohol and tobacco as the primary cause of oral cancer in men.
Gardasil was approved for use in girls beginning at age 11 in 2007, as a vaccine against HPV. Now there is an ongoing debate about whether Merck & Co should apply for an FDA approval to administer the vaccine to boys.
From The American Acedemy of pediatrics ( www.aap.org)
Who Should Get This Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for 11–12 year-old girls, and can be given to girls as young as 9. The vaccine is also recommended for 13–26 year-old girls/women who have not yet received or completed the vaccine series.
These recommendations have been proposed by the ACIP — a national group of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on vaccine issues. These recommendations are now being considered by CDC.
Why is the HPV vaccine recommended for such young girls?
Ideally, females should get the vaccine before they are sexually active. This is because the vaccine is most effective in girls/women who have not yet acquired any of the four HPV types covered by the vaccine. Girls/women who have not been infected with any of those four HPV types will get the full benefits of the vaccine.
Will sexually active females benefit from the vaccine?
Females who are sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine. But they may get less benefit from the vaccine since they may have already acquired one or more HPV type(s) covered by the vaccine. Few young women are infected with all four of these HPV types. So they would still get protection from those types they have not acquired. Currently, there is no test available to tell if a girl/woman has had any or all of these four HPV types.
Why is the HPV vaccine only recommended for girls/women ages 9 to 26?
The vaccine has been widely tested in 9-to-26 year-old girls/ women. But research on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy has only recently begun with women older than 26 years of age. The FDA will consider licensing the vaccine for these women when there is research to show that it is safe and effective for them.
What about vaccinating boys?
We do not yet know if the vaccine is effective in boys or men. Studies are now being done to ? nd out if the vaccine works to prevent HPV infection and disease in males. When more information is available, this vaccine may be licensed and recommended for boys/men as well.
Should pregnant women get the vaccine?
The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. So far, studies suggest that the vaccine has not caused health problems during pregnancy, nor has it caused health problems for the infant — but more research is still needed.
Efficacy of the HPV Vaccine Studies have found the vaccine to be almost 100% effective in preventing diseases caused by the four HPV types covered by the vaccine — including precancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina, and genital warts. The vaccine has mainly been studied in young women who had not been exposed to any of the four HPV types in the vaccine.
The vaccine was less effective in young women who had already been exposed to one of the HPV types covered by the vaccine. This vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections, genital warts, precancers, or cancers.
How long does vaccine protection last? Will a booster shot be needed?
The length of vaccine protection (immunity) is usually not known when a vaccine is ?rst introduced. So far, studies have followed women for ?ve years and found that women are still protected. More research is being done to ?nd out how long protection will last, and if a booster vaccine is needed years later.
What does the vaccine not protect against?
About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests). Also, the vaccine does not prevent about 10% of genital warts — nor will it prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So it will still be important for sexually active adults to reduce exposure to HPV and other STIs.
Will girls/women be protected against HPV and related diseases, even if they don’t get all three doses?
It is not yet known how much protection girls/women would get from receiving only one or two doses of the vaccine. For this reason, it is very important that girls/women get all three doses of the vaccine.
Safety of the HPV Vaccine
The FDA has licensed the HPV vaccine as safe and effective.
This vaccine has been tested in over 11,000 females (ages 9–26 years) around the world. These studies have shown no serious side effects. The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site. CDC, working with the FDA, will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine after it is in general use.
From Merck and CO.
INFORMATION ABOUT GARDASIL
GARDASIL is the only human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of HPV. In girls and young women ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. In boys and young men ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against 90% of genital warts cases.
GARDASIL also helps protect girls and young women ages 9 to 26 against 70% of vaginal cancer cases and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases.
GARDASIL may not fully protect everyone, nor will it protect against diseases caused by other HPV types or against diseases not caused by HPV. GARDASIL does not prevent all types of cervical cancer, so it’s important for women to continue routine cervical cancer screenings. GARDASIL does not treat cancer or genital warts. GARDASIL is given as 3 injections over 6 months.
The side effects include pain, swelling, itching, bruising, and redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting.