The Underused HPV Vaccine


Human Papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It is estimated that nearly every individual who is sexually active will become infected by this virus at some point in their life. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 14 million Americans become infected with HPV each year. Given these grave statistics, one would think that parents and individuals would jump at the chance to protect themselves and their children with a vaccine. Unfortunately, this vaccine is the most underutilized immunization available.

Why Not Get the HPV Vaccine?

HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer as well as other cancers surrounding the genitals and throat. Furthermore, some strains can cause genital warts. The New York Times reported that as of 2014, less than half of girls and just under one quarter of boy ages 13 to 17 had received all doses of the HPV vaccine. There are several reasons that could explain why there is such a low immunization rate among teens. The first is due to the relative newness of the HPV vaccine as well as its expensive price tag. Approved in 2006, each dose costs approximately $300, which can amount to nearly $1,000 for every individual vaccinated. The second is the belief that it would promote promiscuity among teenagers.

While three HPV vaccines have been developed in recent years, only one currently remains on the market. The three-dose immunization is given in a strict series. Dose one is administered at age 11 or 12, but can be given as early as 9 or as late as 26. The second dose is given one to two months after the initial dose. The last dose is given six months after the first. There has yet to be an indication that the vaccine protection diminishes over time and booster doses are not required. Aside from the nuisance of having to come into your doctor’s office frequently, common side effects include:

  • Local pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling at the site of injection
  • Fainting

More severe side effects include:

  • Severe allergic reaction
  • High fever
  • Behavior changes

Although this vaccine has many proven benefits, there are also a number of controversies surrounding the immunization. Dr. Mercola reported that getting vaccinated may make individuals more susceptible to being infected with other strains of HPV. This issue was addressed with the suggestion that those who received older vaccinations also get another shot of the new vaccine, which covers nine different HPV strains. Additionally, there are over 100 different strands of HPV, 30 which are sexually transmitted and 15 that are associated with cancer risks.

Furthermore, studies are being conducted to examine the potential effect that the HPV vaccination may increase the risk of cervical cancer if an individual is actively infected at the time the doses are given. Overall, as of March 2015, over 35,000 adverse reactions were reported to the United States government, including more than 200 deaths in relation to the HPV vaccine. There are numerous benefits as well as precautions that should be examined prior to making a decision on whether the HPV immunization is the right choice.

Learn more about HPV Vaccine News.


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