One would think that the entire nation would be lining up for a HPV that can prevent cancer- but this has not been the case with the HPV vaccine. The question is why? The vaccine has been around for a decade and it is known to prevent cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The vaccine is ideally given at age 11-12 but so far it appears that there has been a great reluctance among parents to get their children vaccinated.
Today HPV is one of the leading causes of sexually transmitted infections in the USA. It is estimated that almost all sexually active individuals will get infected with this virus at some point in their life. HPV is responsible for over 90% of cervical cancers as well as cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and the throat. Other strains of the virus also cause genital warts.
The CDC estimates that there are nearly 14 million American infected with HPV, most of them young adults. The virus causes cancer in about 17,600 women and 9,300 men each year. Yet as of 2014, only 40% of girls and 21% of boys between ages 13-17 have been vaccinated against the HPV as compared to 88% of boys and girls who have been vaccinated against other childhood viral infections like measles, tetanus and pertussis.
The reasons for these discrepancies are several; one of them is that the vaccine is relatively new and secondly it is not free. The 3-dose series costs a total of $1,000 per child. While some insurance plans do cover it but there is a large copayment or deductible. The Federal Vaccine for Child Program provides the vaccine for free in uninsured children.
Another obstacle is the belief that the vaccine may lead to more teenage promiscuity. Parents believe that it is like giving a condom to their child and communicating a message that they are free to go and have sex as long as they are careful. This perception remains despite the fact that studies have shown that this vaccine does not change sexual behavior. Some states are proposing mandatory vaccination but this is still being debated.
The biggest myth about the HPV vaccine is because of what is posted on social media. There are thousands of anecdotal reports blaming the vaccine for almost every type of health disorder under the sun. The anti-vaccine group has a huge following- but unfortunately there is no evidence to support the claims that the HPV vaccine actually worsens health.
At present there are three HPV vaccines available and all have been found to be safe in clinical trials. The most common side effects include redness, local pain and swelling at the site of the injection. The vaccine is administered in the same manner as other vaccines and so far there is no evidence to show that its effectiveness declines with time hence no booster shots are required.