The human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) is a great preventive tool available to the physician.
HPV exposure can lead to the development of cervical cancer as well as cancer of the penis and also of the oral cavity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine to children age 11 and older, and is incorporated into the routine vaccination schedule at well-child visits.
Physicians vaccinate with the HPV vaccine primarily to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer. The vaccine protects an individual against most types of HPV that can lead to cervical and penile cancers. Many individuals become infected with HPV and are not aware of it.
Per the recommendations of the CDC, the HPV vaccine is offered as a two-dose schedule. The first dose is given at age 11 with a booster given 6 months after the first dose.
If the vaccine is given after age 14, then three doses are required for optimal immunity.
The vaccine is recommended for young men up to the age of 21 and for women up to the age of 26.
Parents often ask at the well-child visit what the risks are in obtaining the vaccine. The most common side effects are pain, redness at the site, fever and possible fatigue. There are minimal side effects after obtaining the vaccine. There have been some reports of fainting after the immunization has been given. The most common side effect is pain at the site, which usually resolves after a very brief time.
In Wisconsin, the vaccine is not mandatory for school entry. However, the protection that the vaccine affords is significant. There is a high protection rate that HPV affords has been documented by clinical studies per the CDC.
Since the vaccine was introduced to the United States, there is been significant reduction in HPV infection in teenage females. The HPV vaccine is a great tool in prevention of future disease.
Many parents ask why their sons should obtain the vaccine. Yes, it is true that young men do not have a cervix. However, these young men could unknowingly transmit the virus to a future spouse.
As a reminder, HPV can also cause oral and penile cancers. The vaccine is only a tool of prevention. The risks of obtaining the vaccine are minimal, with very few, if any, side effects.
As a pediatrician and a parent, I have no hesitation in recommending a parent to get their child vaccinated against HPV.