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 Annual 2014

Annual 2014

 

           

HPV Protection for the Next Generation

Data shows many teens aren’t receiving the anti-cancer vaccine.

Although the first vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, was introduced in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, report the majority of teens still aren’t getting vaccinated.

Recent data released from the CDC in September showed that HPV rates among teen girls declined 56 percent since the vaccine was introduced. Yet the data also indicates that only 20.8 percent of boys and 53.8 percent of girls have had at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Typically, the vaccine is given in three doses.

“It continues to be a challenge to get all parents to consent to this very important vaccine series,” says Dr. Charles Wibblesman, chief of adolescent medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. “We still have a lot of work to do educating parents on the importance of this vaccine, and to diminish rumors that the vaccine will change an adolescent’s behavior and encourage them to become sexually active.”

Currently, two HPV vaccines are on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix. Both vaccines protect against the two HPV types that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, 80 percent of anal cancers, 60 percent of vaginal cancers, and 40 percent of vulvar cancers. These vaccines also protect against HPV-induced oral cancers and Gardasil, available only to boys, also protects against the two HPV types that cause 90 percent of genital warts.

The CDC recommends that girls and boys should get vaccinated at the age of 11 or 12, before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV.  If they are 13 or older, and haven’t already been vaccinated, they can still obtain the vaccine through the age of 26. The HPV vaccine isn’t recommended for people over age 26, because it hasn’t been studied well enough in this age group. If enough future studies show that it is safe and effective for people over 26, the FDA may eventually start recommending it for this age group.

“I often tell moms that if this were my daughter, I would give this vaccine,” says Wibblesman. “Adult women receive Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer, and now we have a vaccine that can prevent this type of cancer.”

Dr. Erica Pan, director and deputy health officer for the Alameda County’s Division of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, agrees that HPV vaccine should be looked upon as one way of protecting the next generation from cancer.

“Parents need to view this in the same way they would with other childhood vaccinations,” says Pan, who notes the number of teens receiving the vaccine is disheartening, given the success of the vaccine. “It’s been shown to be an extremely effective vaccine with few side effects.” According to the CDC, reported side effects for the HPV vaccines included pain and redness or swelling at the injection site. In addition, other mild reactions included dizziness, nausea, and headache. Fainting also is a side effect but can occur because of any vaccine or injection.

While Pan acknowledges that some parents may believe that giving their child the HPV vaccine might encourage promiscuity, recent data proves otherwise. A 2012 study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast in Atlanta and published in the October 2012 journal Pediatrics found no evidence that girls who were vaccinated beginning around age 11 went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who weren’t vaccinated.

Some experts recommend that parents view the HPV vaccine as a safety measure, in the same vein as they would require their child to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

“About six million new genital HPV infections occur each year in the United States,” says Pan. “The HPV vaccine is important because the HPV infections that cause most of these cancers could be prevented with the vaccination.”

Pan encourages parents who have concerns or questions about the HPV vaccine to talk to their child’s pediatrician.

“The HPV vaccine is an exciting medical breakthrough in our efforts to eliminate cancer,” Pan says. “It should be viewed as a vaccine that can greatly diminish your child’s chances of developing certain types of cancers.”

 

Young People and STDs

While significant progress has been made with the HPV vaccine, sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, still pose a huge risk for today’s youth. The CDC reports that young people ages 15 to 24, who make up just more than one-quarter of the sexually active population, account for half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States each year.

The good news is that education and regular screening can go a long way in preventing the spread of STDs.

 “Over the past 30 years, I have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of teens who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections such as PID [Pelvic Inflammatory Disease] due to Kaiser Permanente’s policy of screening all sexually active teens for chlamydia and gonorrhea with a noninvasive urine sample,” says Dr. Charles Wibblesman, chief of Adolescent Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. “We now diagnose chlamydia, the most common STI [sexually transmitted infection] in adolescents, quickly within two days and are able to bring in the teen for treatment as well as treating their partner, all in a confidential setting without financial barriers.”

Some of the most common STDs in teens today include: genital warts caused by HPV, genital herpes (approximately one in every four or five teens will contract this disease), HIV, Hepatitis B (while there is no cure, there is a vaccine for teens who have not already been infected), syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

For more information on how to talk to your child about STDs, visit www.cdc.gov/std/sam/.
 

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