The HPV vaccine has not been widely used or accepted, even by doctors, according to the President’s Cancer Panel. Though the vaccine has been available for eight years, the panel only shows that one-third of girls have received all three injections as recommended.
The human papillomavirus causes cancer. As many as 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC.) The immunization was created in an effort to prevent cervical cancer in girls, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Most recently is has also been identified as a way to prevent genital warts, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal JAMA. The study focused on over one million girls between the ages of 10 and 24. The information was taken from Sweden’s National Health Registry.
The HPV vaccine has also been recommended since 2011 to prevent throat cancer in boys, who are only seven percent up to date on their vaccinations.
Though the President’s Cancer Panel urges the public to take advantage of the HPV vaccine in an effort to cut down on cases of cancer and save lives, the advice is being ignored. They state that not enough people are taking advantage of the vaccine, despite the recommendation and high safety rating. The National Cancer Institute claims that it offers protection against cervical cancer for up to eight years.
Gardisil and Cervarix are the two brands that are currently available, but there is controversy surrounding them. Their safety has been a topic of debate. The non-serious side effects are widely known, including fainting, dizziness, nausea, fever and redness and swelling at the site of the injection.
What is not clear, however, is the number of deaths reported from people who have gotten the HPV vaccine. The FDA claims that the reported deaths are not necessarily caused by the HPV vaccine, but were caused by unrelated circumstances.
The current recommendation is a series of three shots, given more than two months apart. The cost of the three injections averages around $400. Given the cost and inconvenience of returning to the doctor’s office three times in six months, many kids are not receiving the full benefit by getting all of the shots. Though it has been shown that even two injections are helpful, the President’s Cancer Panel is keeping the recommendation at three injections for the maximum benefit.
Parents and doctors are also hesitant to use the HPV vaccine. Parents list the risk of autism, increased sexual activity, cost and distrust as reasons for not complying with the recommendation. Doctors are not recommending the vaccine for teenagers either. Parents are typically more likely to get the vaccine for their kids if their doctor places emphasis on it. However, doctors are not doing their part and are promoting the vaccine only as an option.
The President’s Cancer Panel states that a higher level of protection could take place if doctors were to be on board and recommend the HPV vaccine to their patients as a cancer prevention tool. It is unclear if better awareness or a doctor’s endorsement could fix the situation, in which the vaccine is not widely used or trusted by parents.
By Tracy Rose