Probably all parents would protect their children from cancer if they could, just as they try to prevent harm from coming to their children in so many different ways. And at least when it comes to most cervical and oropharyngeal cancers as well as several other types, they can with a simple two-shot immunization.
Why aren’t more parents getting their pre-adolescents and teenagers the HPV vaccine, then? Only about half do. Many have heard scare stories about the vaccine, despite the lack of evidence to back up those stories. They wonder if the vaccine is more likely to harm their children than help them. In a situation that might look dubious to them, the natural reaction is to do nothing. Inaction feels safer than action.
In this case, it’s not.
There have already been numerous studies looking at the safety of the vaccine, and they have all come out with the same message: It is safe. Very rarely, there will be some kind of significant physical conditions within the weeks after the vaccine, but it’s very important to remember that preteens and teens come down with these illnesses anyway, without the vaccine.
The real question is, are they more likely to develop those problems if they are vaccinated? And the answer, extensive studies have shown, is no. The likelihood of a physical illness after the vaccine is no different than among those who weren’t immunized.
For parents who still have doubts, two reports in recent months should help set their minds at ease. Now, during National Immunization Awareness Week, let’s take a closer look at what these reports tell us.
In May, the Cochrane Report, a highly respected source of health study and information, released an analysis of HPV vaccination results. The authors examined 26 studies in which more than 73,000 girls and women were involved.
It found that the HPV vaccine reduced the risk of HPV-caused cervical precancer from 164 cases per 10,000 women to 2 cases. In other words, women without the vaccine were 82 times as likely to develop the precancerous condition.
Within the recommended age range for the vaccine, though, earlier was clearly better. Among girls and women who already had an HPV infection, the vaccine still reduced the chances of developing precancer, but not by as much. Girls who are vaccinated earlier are less likely to have been infected before they receive their immunizations. The report concluded:
There is high-certainty evidence that HPV vaccines protect against cervical precancer in adolescent girls and women who are vaccinated between 15 and 26 years of age. The protection is lower when a part of the population is already infected with HPV…. The vaccines do not increase the risk of serious adverse events, miscarriage or pregnancy termination.
Just a month later, Public Health England, a branch of the British government, reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that the HPV vaccine appears to have drastically reduced rates of infection. In a press release, the government announced:
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) 16 and 18 infections, which cause the majority of cervical cancer cases, decreased by 86% in women aged 16 to 21 who were eligible for the vaccination as adolescents between 2010 and 2016.
The results suggest that the HPV vaccination programme will bring about large reductions in cervical cancer in the future. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35, killing around 850 women a year.
The good news didn’t end there. The government went on to say:
In addition, the programme has led to a marked decline in genital wart diagnoses. The number of genital wart diagnoses in sexual health clinics fell in girls aged 15 to 17 by 89%, and in boys of the same age by 70%, between 2009 and 2017 as a result of herd immunity. Genital warts are caused by some low-risk strains of HPV, which the current vaccine also protects against.
These reports should encourage every parent of a teenager to take their children for the vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine for preteens ages 11 or 12, although it can be given as early as age 9.
And yes, this definitely is true for boys as well. Both boys and girls can spread HPV infection, and both can develop cancers from it. In fact, most of the HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers occur among men, and there are as many cases of it in men as there are cases of HPV-related cervical center in women. Let’s protect everyone in the coming generations from cancer, whenever we can.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
Learn the Facts about the HPV Vaccine
The Importance of a Doctor's Words in HPV Vaccination
TIP Op-Ed: Protect your Child from HPV Without Consenting to Risky Behavior