The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV (human papillomavirus), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most of the time when the virus enters the system, the infection is cleared by the immune system; the worst side effects are warts or skin growths. However, certain strains of HPV can cause more ominous changes. When at the cellular level, rapid growth can occur and result in cancer of the cervix, anus or throat.
Although there has been some controversy in the early years of the HPV vaccine, the results speak for themselves. According to a recent Pediatrics study, the evidence indicates the HPV vaccine is indeed decreasing the rates of HPV in teens and young women. The study included two groups: one group of teens and young women from the pre-vaccine era of 2003-2006; and the other demographically similar group from a time period (2009-2012) after the vaccine was introduced.
The results are promising, including a 64 percent decrease in HPV strains in immunized girls aged 14-19, and a 34 percent decrease in women aged 20-24 who had received the HPV vaccination. These numbers seem to indicate the younger girls are vaccinated, the greater protection they have against HPV infections should they come in contact with the virus. In a perfect world, the HPV vaccine would be given prior to any exposure to HPV, which is why recommendations suggest beginning the vaccine at age 11. If given prior to exposure to the more dangerous strains of HPV, the vaccine can potentially prevent up to 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. However, because of the various strains of HPV, the vaccine can be given even after exposure and still be beneficial.
Urgent Team’s Family of Urgent Care & Walk-in Centers understand there has been a lot of confusion about the HPV vaccine. We invite you to come in to discuss options with our medical experts, so you can have the best information about protecting your children as they enter adulthood.