HPV Vaccine

I want to tell you about the Gardasil vaccine — a vaccine that prevents cancer, by protecting both girls and boys against HPV.

HPV stands for Humanpapilloma Virus. You may know HPV as the cause of common warts. You’ve probably heard that the HPV vaccine is recommended for girls. What you might not know is that the HPV vaccine is also recommended for boys. And that it’s highly effective against several different types of cancers.

Initially, publicity about the vaccine focused on cancers affecting females, such as those of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. But the reason this vaccine is approved for both girls and boys is that HPV causes anogenital warts and anal cancer in both males and females. And that cancers caused by HPV result in tens of thousands of deaths each year.

Contrary to some what some people think, these diseases don’t require promiscuity, or any specific type of sexual contact. In fact, studies have shown that almost any intimate contact — not just intercourse — can spread the virus. All it takes is one touch, one time to get infected.

Even more frightening is that HPV is believed to be responsible for 30 to 40% of cancers of the head and neck, such as those of the tonsils, tongue, and throat.

Doctors and research scientists would give anything to cure cancer. With the HPV vaccine, we now have a way to prevent several different types.

The Gardasil vaccine was initially approved for use in the United States in 2006, and it’s the first substantial defense modern medicine has developed to protect against literally thousands of cases of cancer. The vaccine protects against up to 90% of anogenital warts, 70% of cervical cancer, 50% of vulvar and vaginal cancers, and 80% of anal cancers.

The vaccine is approved for both males and females from ages 9 to 26 years old. It’s given in two doses — a first dose, followed by a second dose 6-12 months after that. The vaccine, which has been studied and evaluated for over ten years now, is safe, highly effective, and covered by insurance.

Because there’s no data to suggest that the vaccine helps once a person has already been exposed to the virus, it should be given well in advance of any type of risk. So we recommend that Kids Plus Kids get the first dose of the vaccine by age 11. In short: it’s better to be safe now, than to be sorry later.

The Gardasil HPV vaccine protects against anogenital warts, and it likely prevents a painful, invasive condition called Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis. Those protections alone would be enough to recommend it.

But at its core, the Gardasil HPV vaccine is an ANTI-CANCER vaccine. Its ability to protect our children against several different types of cancer, and to prevent tens of thousands of cancer deaths a year, make this vaccine truly amazing.

And that makes all of us at Kids Plus absolutely thrilled to provide it.

(For more information, see these excellent resource pages from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.)

Dr. Todd Wolynn, the CEO of Kids Plus Pediatrics, is a nationally recognized pediatric expert on immunizations.