In the news is information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, used to prevent sexually transmitted infections causing genital warts, and more importantly, causing cervical, anal, penile, mouth and throat cancers. Of particular interest is information demonstrating the vaccine developed to prevent HPV infections is even more effective that thought.
Federal researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that existing use of the vaccine has reduced the presence of the virus in teenage girls by approximately two-thirds. This information is especially impressive given the relative novelty and limited use of the vaccine. Only about 40% of girls and 20% of boys between ages 13-17 have been vaccinated. The better news for the future is public health professionals are making a significant push for greater vaccine use at ages 11-12, when the vaccination rates for other childhood diseases exceed 80%.
Here’s a public health message: taking the vaccine is about cancer prevention, not just preventing a sexually transmitted infection (genital warts). Unfortunately this message hasn’t fully penetrated the national dialogue: only the District of Columbia, Rhode Island and Virginia require the HPV vaccine, even though it is believed universal use of the vaccine would virtually eradicate cervical cancer. As a frame of reference, several other countries (e.g. Australia) in which HPV vaccine use is mandatory, has achieved over 90% vaccination rates over 90% reduction in rates of genital warts.
About 14 million Americans become infected with HPV each year, and approximately 27,000 people get cancer as a result of an infection from HPV. The American Cancer Society estimates that 4,120 women will die of cervical cancer this year.
If you have a child of either sex, have the conversation with your pediatrician or primary care physician about the HPV vaccine as early as age 10. If you’re a female into your mid-twenties and haven’t been vaccinated, you should also discuss this vaccine with your physician. You should be encouraged that a simple vaccine can eliminate cervical cancer.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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