Please stop freaking out about the HPV vaccine.

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Okay, I can’t take it anymore. In the past week, I have seen the HPV vaccine scare stories going around again and now I just have to say something. As a person who had precancerous cells removed from her cervix because of HPV, I can’t imagine not giving my kids and their future partners protection from cancer if I can.

Both my kids have had two of the three shots so far and will have their third next week.

No, you are not encouraging your kids to have sex by giving them this shot.

You are helping to protect them from certain types of cancer.

Certain HPV types are classified as “high-risk” because they lead to abnormal cell changes and can cause genital cancers: cervical cancer as well as cancer of the vulva, anus, and penis. In fact, researchers say that virtually all cervical cancers — more than 99% — are caused by these high-risk HPV viruses.  –WebMd

More than 99%. Let that sink in. You have the power to help protect your children (and their future partners) from certain types of cancer.

For women who do develop cervical cancer, HPV is generally the root cause. In 2006, it is estimated that there will be 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths attributed to it in the United States. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women; and it is estimated to cause over 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths per year.  –FDA

Abstinence is not protection.

As I mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with HPV after having an abnormal PAP test. This lead to a biopsy and then cryotherapy to remove precancerous cells. Kent is my one and only sexual partner. I married him 2 days after my 18th birthday. Not that it is anyone’s business, but I want to dispel the myth that if your child just abstains from intercourse before they are married they won’t get HPV. On that note, I’d like to say according to the CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics:

…in the United States, 46 percent of all high school age students, and 62 percent of high school seniors, have had sexual intercourse; almost nine million teens have already had sex.1,2

Maybe your child will be in the 38% of kids who haven’t had sex by the time they graduate and maybe they won’t.

Additionally, HPV can be contracted through oral sex and/or genital contact (even with areas not covered by a condom).

But UCSF researchers have shown these viruses to be present on genital skin with no symptoms that might prompt diagnosis and treatment. That means HPV and HSV can be deposited on the condom’s outer surface from viral particles living on the scrotum, penile shaft not covered by the condom or vaginal/vulvar tissues.

No, HPV doesn’t mean anyone cheated. 

HPV can go undetected for years making it hard to know exactly when or how you contracted it. There is no HPV test for men, and women do not know they have it until they develop symptoms that show up in a cervical cancer screening, abnormal PAP test, genital warts or worst of all, cancer. According to everydayhealth.com:

“Some patients assume that their current sexual partner gave it to them,” says Robinson. “But that’s probably not the case. The women who develop cervical cancer at age 40 probably got infected shortly after [having sex] with their first sexual partner.” That’s because HPV can remain dormant for years before it starts causing damage to cells that can lead to cancer. HPV-triggered cancers can take years, or even decades, to develop.

HPV vaccines are not just for girls. According to the CDC:

Girls aren’t the only ones affected by HPV, also known as human papillomavirus.  HPV is common in both males and females. Every year, over 9,000 males are affected by cancers caused by HPV infections that don’t go away. HPV can cause cancers of the anus, mouth/throat (oropharynx), and penis in males.

Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat are on the rise. In fact, if current trends continue, the annual number of cancers of the mouth/throat attributed to HPV is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by 2020.1

Are HPV vaccines effective? YES.

HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection with the types of HPV they target when given before initial exposure to the virus—which means before individuals begin to engage in sexual activity. In the trials that led to approval of Gardasil and Cervarix, these vaccines were found to provide nearly 100 percent protection against persistent cervical infections with HPV types 16 and 18 and the cervical cell changes that these persistent infections can cause. Gardasil 9 is as effective as Gardasil for the prevention of diseases caused by the four shared HPV types (6, 11, 16, and 18), based on similar antibody responses in participants in clinical studies. The trials that led to approval of Gardasil 9 found it to be 97 percent effective in preventing cervical, vulvar, and vaginal disease caused by the five additional HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) that it targets (18).

Okay, but are they safe? YES!!

According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine:

RESULTS:

One hundred eighty-nine thousand six hundred twenty-nine females received at least 1 dose and 44 001 received 3 HPV4 doses. Fifty categories had significantly elevated ORs during at least 1 risk interval. Medical record review revealed that most diagnoses were present before vaccination or diagnostic workups were initiated at the vaccine visit. Only skin infections during days 1 to 14 (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3-2.4) and syncope on day of vaccination (OR, 6.0; 95% CI, 3.9-9.2) were noted by an independent Safety Review Committee as likely associations with HPV4.

CONCLUSIONS:

The quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine was associated with same-day syncope and skin infections in the 2 weeks after vaccination. This study did not detect evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years of age secondary to vaccination with HPV4.

According to cancer.gov:

How safe are the HPV vaccines?

A recent safety review by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considered adverse side effects related to Gardasil immunization that have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System since the vaccine was licensed (29, 30). The rates of adverse side effects in the safety review were consistent with what was seen in safety studies carried out before the vaccine was approved and were similar to those seen with other vaccines. However, a higher proportion of syncope (fainting) and venous thrombolic events (blood clots) were seen with Gardasil than are usually seen with other vaccines.  The patients who developed blood clots had known risk factors for developing them, such as taking oral contraceptives. A safety review of Gardasil in Denmark and Sweden did not identify an increased risk of blood clots (30).

Falls after fainting may sometimes cause serious injuries, such as head injuries. These can largely be prevented by keeping the person seated for up to 15 minutes after vaccination. The FDA and CDC have reminded health care providers that, to prevent falls and injuries, all vaccine recipients should remain seated or lying down and be closely observed for 15 minutes after vaccination. More information is available from the CDC athttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccines/HPV/Index.html.

[syn·co·pe   ˈsiNGkəpē/    noun     MEDICINE: temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure.] I didn’t know either. Had to look it up. 

Debunking Gardasil myths.

Your one stop shop for real science and myth debunking about Gardasil

New Study Debunks Conservative Hysteria That HPV Vaccination Causes ‘Sexual Promiscuity’

Parents Are Increasingly Worried The HPV Vaccine Isn’t Safe, Despite All Evidence To The Contrary

On Gardasil- Snopes

Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People

I will leave you with this final thought from Dr. Stanley Block:

“This is an incredibly well studied vaccine, with huge data sets and huge populations, and nothing has panned out as being significant as far as major adverse events,” said Dr. Stanley Block, a pediatrician in private practice in Bardstown, Kentucky, and a coauthor of the study recently published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. “We know the reality is that it protects against a tremendous number of deaths, cancers and chemotherapies for your daughters and your sons [and I would add your children’s future partners] somewhat too.

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