With more than 40 different types of HPV that can affect the mouth, throat, and genital areas of both males and females, it may come as no surprise that it is recognized as the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with the virus, and roughly 14 million people become newly infected every year. The numbers are certainly disturbing, and in response, vaccines have been introduced to protect against HPV types, which can lead to certain cancers and even cause genital warts.
But are the vaccines worth it? Many families struggle with the idea of administering the vaccines to their children due to the potentially dangerous outcomes on their health. The HPV vaccine, which is taken as a 3-shot series, also has a negative perception associated with it – due to it working best before sexual activity begins, the recommended age of getting the vaccine is 11-12 years old. However, no parent wants to think of their preteen as being sexually active. The vaccine can still be effective for women up to 26 years old and men up to 21 years old, but it provides less protection with each passing year.
There are also a number of side effects associated with the HPV vaccine. Although most people who receive the vaccine don’t see any serious side effects, there are still others who experience pain or swelling at the shot site; a slight fever; headache; fatigue; muscle pain; joint pain; fainting; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain; or diarrhea. In addition, the HPV vaccines don’t prevent all HPV-related cancers or treat existing HPV-related illnesses or infections. It is still recommended that women get regular pap smears, which are also needed to catch any indications of early cancer.
Despite an alarming number of people having the HPV virus, it is somewhat comforting to know that most people will never develop symptoms or health problems. Research suggests that 9 out of 10 HPV infections go away by themselves within two years. Regardless, it is not something to be taken lightly. According to the CDC, about 17,500 women and 9,300 men are affected by cancers caused by HPV every year.
And, the HPV vaccine has proven to work in some small part. Doctors have recognized that HPV vaccines have reduced precancerous conditions and abnormal pap smears in their patients. No one can make the decision of whether you should get a vaccine for your child, but you and your family. However, to make a more informed decision, be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician, who can explain in detail the pros and cons of the vaccine. From there, do what’s best for your child. W