9 Facts You Need to Know about the HPV Vaccine
The heavily advertised HPV vaccine has garnered a lot of media attention in recent years. There has also been a lot of misinformation circulated about this shot which has led to a whole lot of confusion and anxiety for parents.
Here’s what parents should know about the HPV vaccine:
One of the biggest concerns that parents naturally have about the HPV shots is its safety. Although it’s a relatively new vaccine, each one has been tested extensively (on between 15,000 and 30,000 patients) and all three vaccines on the market (Ceravix, Gardisil and Gardisil 9) have been approved by the FDA. All three vaccines have also been recommended by the Centers of Disease Control.
It Protects Against an Incredibly Common Infection
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are considered to be, by far, the most common form of sexually transmitted infection in the United States. As a matter of fact, it is so common that’s estimated that nearly every sexually active adult has been exposed to it at some point in their lives – and most don’t even know it. And because an infected person doesn’t always realize that he or she is a carrier, they can pass the infection on to others.
It’s Not Just about Girls!
Many parents are under the impression that the HPV vaccine is just for girls. However, boys also can have HPV-related health risks – and it has been linked to various forms of cancer, including oral, anal, and penile cancers. The vaccine will protect your son, as well as your daughter from developing serious conditions later in life.
All Three Vaccines Protect Against Cancer
In many cases, someone who contracts an HPV infection will never even know they have it. The body’s immune system is able to fight the infection off on its own and there are often no early signs and symptoms. In some cases however, the virus remains in the system and can cause changes in the cells that eventually can lead to cancer development.
All three of these vaccines can protect your children from cervical, oral, anal, and penile cancers.
Some Also Protect Against Genital Warts
Both Gardisil and Gardisil 9 not only protect against the strains of HPV that cause cancer; they also protect against the strains that cause genital warts. Parents should keep in mind however, the Ceravix does not offer this extra protection.
Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?
Currently, doctors recommend the HPV vaccine for the following groups:
- Children of both sexes between the ages of 11 and 12
- Teens who have not begun or did not finish their series of shots
- The shot can be given up to age 26 for females or 21 for males
The vaccines work best if they are given before a teenager becomes sexually active, in order to give them full protection before they are potentially exposed to the virus.
The Vaccine Is Not a Silver Bullet
Parents – and teens – should keep in mind that this vaccine is not a silver bullet. It does not protect against other forms of sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. It does not protect against HIV. And it does not prevent pregnancy.
In short, parents will still need to sit down and talk to their children about the risks of teenage sexual activity, including disease transmission and unwanted pregnancy. Clearly discuss high-risk activities whether your children have been vaccinated or not. If your children choose to be sexually active, they also need to be educated on safe sex practices to reduce their risks.
The Side Effects Are Mild
The side effects of all three of these vaccines are mild and can include:
- Soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site
- A low-grade fever
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Flu-like body ache in muscles and/or joints
However, if children experience any of the following symptoms, it should be reported immediately:
- High fever
- Wheezing, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Hives or other skin eruption
- Weakness or dizziness
- Rapid heartbeat or increased respirations
- Pale or clammy skin
Fortunately, side effects like these are extremely rare.
When Not to Vaccinate
There are some groups who are not good candidates for the HPV vaccine. This includes anyone who has a strong allergy to yeast, or to other components of the HPV vaccine itself.
If your child has a weak immune system due to a history of childhood cancer or other diseases affecting immunity, it’s a good idea to discuss your child’s condition with your doctor to find out the risks and benefits of giving the vaccine.
Are you planning on giving your children the HPV vaccine? Why or why not?