A vaccine that could prevent certain types of cancer is “the most underutilized immunization available for children,” according to an Aug. 22 New York Times blog.
The vaccine, best given at ages 11 to 12, prevents infections with a cancer-causing virus called human papillomavirus or HPV, author Jane Brody wrote in “The Underused HPV Vaccine.”
HPV can cause cervical cancer and other cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, according to the CDC. It also can cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. Every year approximately 17,600 women and 9,300 men are affected by cancers caused by HPV, the CDC website states.
In 2015, four out of 10 adolescent girls and 6 out of 10 adolescent boys had not started the recommended HPV vaccine series, leaving them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infections, according to a CDC news release.
That may be because HPV is transmitted via sexual activity, and the recommended age of vaccination is at about 11, when parents say their children are not sexually active, according to Brody. In addition, some parents believe the vaccination promotes promiscuity, he said.
But, there is no connection between the vaccine and sexual activity, Debbie Saslow, PhD, the director of cancer control intervention for the American Cancer Society, said in the article. “First and foremost, this is a cancer-prevention vaccine,” Saslow said. “Multiple studies have shown no negative impact on any measure of sexual activity among girls given the HPV vaccine.”
Another issue is expense. A three-dose series is recommended, and each does is about $300, according to the New York Times article. Insurance covers the vaccination and those who are uninsured or underinsured can receive it free by participating in the federal Vaccines for Children program, according to Brody.
The American Cancer Society recently endorsed HPV vaccination recommendations by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, according to a July 19 article on MedicalXpress.com.
Recommendations include the following:
• Routine HPV vaccination of all children should be initiated at age 11 or 12. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.
• Vaccination also is recommended for females, ages 13 to 26 and for males, ages 13 to 21 who have not been vaccinated previously or who have not completed the three-dose series. Males 22 through 26 years old may also be vaccinated. The article noted the vaccination is less effective with young adults compared with adolescents and teenagers.
“HPV vaccination has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of cancers and hundreds of thousands of pre-cancers each year,” Saslow said in the Medical Xpress article. “It is critical that all stakeholders — families, healthcare providers and others — make HPV vaccination a priority.”
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