HPV vaccine has long-lasting effect
During vaccination season, certain ailments seem to get all the attention. Flu shots are typically the star of the show for adults. For kids, measles and tetanus takes center stage. Often forgot is the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccination. A new long-term study shows that the vaccine appears to protect against the sexually transmitted virus for at least eight years.
Published in an August Pediatrics journal, researchers selected more than 1,700 sexually inactive boys and girls, ranging from nine-years-old to 15 and gave them either the HPV vaccine or placebo shots. Eight years later, the vaccinated teens still had antibodies in their system.
“The body’s response against HPV by making antibodies looks very good at eight years, and it seems like no booster doses will be necessary,” said lead researcher Dr. Daron Ferris, director of the HPV epidemiology and prevention program at Georgia Regents University in Atlanta, in a news release. “There are all indications that the vaccine is safe, and it looks like it’s effective in preventing genital warts and other diseases caused by HPV.”
With more than 100 types of HPV, the disease is one of the most prevelant sexually-transmitted ailments. The disease is spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. While most are harmless outside the appearance of warts, about 30 different types can put a person at risk for cancer, according to the National Institute of Health. Certain strains of HPV have been tied to cervical cancer tumors. In women, pap smears can detect changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer.
“When it comes to any vaccination, especially for younger kids, I sit down the parents and talk about both sides of the vaccines,” says Dr. Joseph Thomas, obstetrician/gynecologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “The positives are obvious like the possible prevention of cervical cancer. But the reason why it is important for doctors to sit down and talk about the whole issue is because a patient shouldn’t feel like a doctor is forcing them to get a vaccination.”
The topic of the HPV vaccination is becoming an issue because too few boys and girls are receiving even the first dose, let alone all three doses. About 57 percent of girls aged 11 to 15 and 33 percent of boys that same age are getting the first dose of the vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those figures drop dramatically when it comes to the percentage receiving all three doses; 33 percent for girls and 14 percent boys. The CDC recommends kids 11 or 12 receive all three HPV doses. The third shot is typically the booster dose, which provides the longest term protection.
“If you haven’t had your child vaccinated, please get them vaccinated,” Dr. Ferris says. “It’s more dangerous not to give the vaccine to your children.”
Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected making it hard to know when you first became infected.
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