The HPV vaccine debate for preteens: Get one or pass?
Helen Deitch, M.D., OB/GYN | 07.24.13
Approximately 14 million new people become infected with HPV every year.
The preteen years are the time for learning, exploring and finding out who you are. They are typically not the years for thinking about cancer prevention. But, they should be.
Medical professionals recommend that all preteens and young girls be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for the majority of cases of cervical cancer. However, there is increasing reluctance among parents to have their young daughters vaccinated, explains Helen Deitch, M.D., OB/GYN at WellSpan’s Adolescent Gynecology Program.
“We hear parents express fears about potential serious side effects as the main reason for not getting the HPV vaccine. In my years of practicing medicine I have only seen mild side effects in my patients,” she says.
How serious is HPV? Who gets it?
HPV affects approximately 79 million Americans each year—approximately 14 million new people become infected every year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives.
Approximately 90 percent of HPV infections will go away on their own within two years; however, HPV infections can lead to serious health problems. In fact, HPV is responsible for just about every case of cervical cancer and has been linked to several other types of cancers, including genital, anal and oral cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.
Most people are unaware they are infected because they show no symptoms; however, they are still able to pass it along to others through sexual contact. There is currently no treatment available for HPV.
Why should your daughter receive the HPV vaccine?
Help protect your daughter from getting these diseases in the future by having her vaccinated today.
While young girls do not typically get the diseases caused by HPV, you can help protect your daughter from getting these diseases in the future by having her vaccinated today. Two HPV vaccines have been approved and are recommended for preteens and young women who were not previously vaccinated.
“HPV is a very common viral infection, and now parents have this amazing opportunity to protect their children against the most common HPV strains found in cancers and genital warts,” explains Deitch. “This is a huge advancement in cancer prevention that I highly encourage parents to consider.”
The vaccine is administered as a series of three shots over six months and can be given to girls as young as nine. Physicians recommend that girls get the vaccine at a young age to allow ample time for it to fully take effect. She says:
“The HPV vaccine is the most effective when it is given before the onset of sexual activity, which is why following the recommendation to vaccinate at age 11 is so important.”
What are the side effects?
Some people choose not to vaccinate out of concern for potential side effects. However, Deitch explains that vaccine side effects are typically mild and might include pain, redness and itching near the site of the injection and mild or moderate fever. The symptoms typically don’t last very long and will go away on their own.
I encourage parents to talk with their child’s health care provider to find out if this vaccine may be right for them,” Deitch says.
Dr. Deitch, WellSpan’s network of primary care physicians and pediatricians can administer the HPV vaccine. For more information, contact your child’s health care provider or call Dr. Deitch at (717) 851-1990.