Monday, August 25, 2014

Have the Teens in Your Life Been Vaccinated Against HPV?

If you've been reading here for long, you know that the type of cancer I had is now preventable with a vaccine. My cancer was caused by HPV, Human Papillomavirus. It's the same virus that causes cervical cancer, which can also be prevented with the HPV vaccine.

Since 2006, the CDC has recommended that ALL girls aged 11 and 12 receive the HPV vaccine.

Since 2011 the CDC has recommended that ALL boys aged 11 and 12 also receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is delivered in three doses spaced over six months.

Clear CDC recommendations notwithstanding, the vaccination rates are still too low. As of 2013, only 57% of girls and 35% boys had received at least one dose by their 13th birthday.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit lamented the low vaccination rates and encouraged his colleagues to make more effort to recommend vaccination to parents. He specifically advised providers to remove sex from the conversation (HPV is sexually transmitted. Most Americans have been infected. Most people clear the infection on their own, but some don't.) and focus on the fact that HPV-related cancers are the only cancers that can be prevented with a vaccination.

Dr. Offit concludes thusly:

Millions of adolescents aren’t getting a vaccine to prevent a known cause of cancer. It takes about 20 years for an HPV infection to progress to cancer. That’s when the bill is due. Given current rates of immunization, somewhere around 2,000 adults every year whose parents had chosen not to give them the HPV vaccine will probably die from a preventable cancer. It’s unconscionable.

I agree completely.

Surprisingly (to me), in the CDC National Immunization Survey (NIS-Teen), the main reasons parents gave for not planning to vaccinate their children against HPV had nothing to do with sex. The main reasons parents gave were:

  1. lack of knowledge of the virus and vaccine
  2. belief that the vaccine was not needed or necessary
  3. lack of recommendation from their pediatrician

As of March 2014 more than 67 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered. The safety of the vaccine is well-established.

If you are the parent of a teen, please vaccinate him or her. If you have a teen in your life, perhaps a niece or nephew, please speak to their parents about HPV vaccination.

It could save the teen's life.

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