HPV vaccine explained by your Chicago OBGYN
Most parents have learned about vaccines from their child’s pediatrician. The intent of vaccination against any disease is to prompt the immune system to produce antibodies, which will create a high level of resistance to that disease. This is how the HPV vaccine works.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, or human papillomavirus. Some types pose very little, if any, threat to long term health. It is estimated that most people who become infected with HPV don’t know it and never get treated. Sometimes, the condition will run its course without complications. However, there are certain types of HPV that have been linked to cervical and other cancers. It is for this reason that the vaccine was developed. Two HPV vaccines have been approved by the FDA. Both reduce the risk of HPV 16 and 18, identified as high-risk types.
Who should be vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women aged 11 to 26. Pregnant women are excluded from this recommendation, and the vaccine is not approved for patients older than 26. HPV can affect both men and women, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also encourages parents to have their sons vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12. The three-dose series may be given to boys up to the age of 21, in most cases. Depending on lifestyle and health factors, men may be vaccinated up to the age of 26.
Why age matters
The recommendation from the CDC is that boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine between the age of 11 and 12. The reason for this recommendation is that there is a high likelihood of infection in sexually active individuals. Because the vaccine does not resolve infection once it has occurred, it is most advantageous before a boy or girl becomes sexually active.
The touchy subject of sex
One of the questions that parents have is how to explain this vaccination to their child. Because the series of vaccinations is recommended at such an early age, this may present a challenge for parents not ready to discuss sex with their children. Parents can tell their children that the HPV vaccine is just like others that were received during childhood, and that it is given to help prevent disease in the future.
The HPV vaccine is available at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates, in Chicago. To learn more or schedule your visit, call 312-440-9400.