The HPV vaccine is one of the newer vaccines. It is recommended for preteen children between the ages of 8 and 11.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus, which comprises many strains of a common, normally symbiotic virus that is found throughout the human body.

How is H PV spread?
HPV is commonly referred to as a sexually transmitted infection, though this characterization is somewhat misleading. Every nook and cranny of the human body is awash in its own garden of different microbes, and HPV is one of the more common microbes that can inhabit the genital area (as well as other parts of the body) and can be spread through sexual contact (as well as other types of contact). Oral HPV can be spread by kissing or sharing drinks.

“Nearly everyone who is sexually active will get a genital infection with HPV,” says obstetrician Kevin Ault. Approximately 79 million Americans are carrying the HPV virus at any given time, or about 1 in 3 adults. More than 70% of the U.S. Population will experience at least I infection at some point. (Reddv, 9-12-2017) In fact, 42% of U.S. Women currently have an HPV “infection,” and around 80$ are infected by age 509. (Szabo, 2012)

The potential dangers of HPV

Normally HPV is a benign microbe, one of the many on our body that causes no harm. So in the vast majority of cases it won’t do any damage, and most people will never even know they had it. However, it’s recently been discovered that when it gets into the vagina it can cause cervical cancer in some females, and it can cause genital warts in rare instances.

Normally the body’s immune system can clear out HPV naturally on its own within 2 years without incident, and most people won’t ever know they had it. However, in that small number of people, the virus can morph into a cancerous growth. It’s believed that HPV is responsible for more than 30,000 cases of cancer every year. The vaccine protects against around 90% of these cancers. (Reddy, 9-12-2017)

What does the H PV vaccine do?
The HPV vaccine protects against two types of human papillomavirus that together cause around 70% of cervical cancers. Though cervical cancer is extremely rare, it nonetheless strikes about 12,200 women in the U.S each year. By vaccinating children against HPV, we significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancers that might otherwise strike a girl later in life. Boys are vaccinated as a way of added immunity to better protect girls. IT also protects against certain types of throat cancers which are caused by HPV, which affect around 7, I 00 Americans each year.

Prevalence of HPV among girls ages 14 to 19 fell 56% to 5.1% of the population in the four years since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, according to a recent study. (Martin, 6-20-20 13)Since 2006, when the HPV vaccine was introduced I North America, infections dropped more than 80% among teen girls and young women in the United States. (Grainger, 2022)

A study in the Lancet published at the end of2021 found that in England, where a program was instituted vaccinating against HPV in 2008, cervical cancer has been almost completely eliminated in women born since 1995, who were vaccinated at ages 12 or 13. And <In ll-ye<lr Swedish study of 1.7 million women published in the New Enrdand Journal of Medicine in 2020 found women vaccinated before the age of 17 were 90% less likely to get cervical cancer. (Grainger, 2022)

Yet only 32% of girls ages 13 to 17 have received the recommended 3 doses. So if immunization rates were where they need to be, we could prevent such cancers even better.

Controversies surrounding the HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine has been controversial in America, almost exclusively because of its association with a “sexually transmitted” infection. Neurotic parents are reluctant to give their preteen child an HPV vaccination under the misguided belief that it might send the message that it’s okay for kids to engage in sexual activity. Yet this is an invalid concern for several reasons. First, the vaccine is given to children because it’s most effective when given prior to kids becoming sexually active, and no matter how much parents stick their heads in the sand, this happens for many kids right around the age of puberty. You might as well get it out of the way early on.

Second, as discussed above, HPV is a common virus spread in many different ways. You giving your children a simple kiss on the lips could transmit it to them. So can sharing a drink with a friend at school. It can be transferred through touch and then transferred to that area from your child touching themselves. So although the cancers HPV treats are most commonly transmitted through sexual activity, sexual activity isn’t the only way HPV spreads.

Finally, to allay parental concerns, a study of 1,398 11- and 12-year-old girls found that the HPV vaccine has absolutely no influence on the youngster’s sexual activity. (Healy, 2012) Other studies have found the same. If your child is going to become sexually active it will have absolutely nothing to do with whether you do or don’t give them a vaccine that might someday save their life decades down the road.

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