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Demystifying the HPV Vaccine

One of the questions submitted on our feedback posting related to the HPV vaccine. There is a lot of confusion around this vaccine, so we wanted to take a moment to try and clear it up for you.

The HPV vaccine is designed to build immunity against nine of the most common and dangerous strains of the Human Papillomavirus. The Human Papillomavirus is most commonly transmitted through any kind of sexual contact including vaginal, oral, anal AND EVEN hand-to-genital contact. Some studies indicate that the virus can also be contracted through indirect contact (ex. sitting on a bench in a public sauna or steam room that someone else sat on without clothing).

Almost all sexually active individuals have unknowingly contracted the virus by the time they are adults.

Every year, in the United States alone, the HPV virus causes cancer in 17,500 women and 9,300 men. The most dangerous strains of the virus cause 90% of cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, and penile cancers. They also cause throat and mouth cancers. While women are screened for cervical cancer, there are no routine screenings for other HPV-related cancers, making them even more dangerous.

HPV also causes genital warts in both males and females. While treatable, these warts are painful, embarrassing, and uncomfortable to treat.

Many parents come in under the notion that until their children are sexually active, they are not at risk, and needn’t receive the HPV vaccine. It is important to note that the HPV vaccine is most effective when used to build immunity in adolescents BEFORE they become sexually active; affording their immune systems time to develop an adequate defense against the virus, prior to being exposed to it. The vaccine can still be effective for individuals who are already sexually active.

The HPV vaccine is more than 90 percent effective at preventing most HPV-related cancers and genital warts when administered prior to contracting the virus.

The HPV vaccine is recommended between ages 11 and 12. For children with a history of sexual abuse, the vaccine should be administered as early as age 9. The vaccine can be administered up to age 26.

There are two doses of the vaccine (administered six through 12 months apart) for children under 15. Those 15 and over are required to have three doses.

The CDC and FDA are very careful about monitoring the HPV vaccine. Since its release in 2006, the vaccine has been distributed to almost 100 million people in the United States. Studies continue to indicate that the vaccine is safe and effective. The most common side effects reported after HPV vaccination are mild. They include pain and redness in the area of the arm where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. Some preteens and teens tend to feel faint after getting shots, and should be required to remain seated for 15 minutes in order to limit the risk of fall or injury.

Please note that individuals who are allergic to LATEX or YEAST might be ineligible to receive the shot. Your doctor should be notified of all allergies prior to administering any vaccines. Additionally, vaccines should never be administered when an individual is suffering from a moderate illness or fever greater than 101’F.

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