HPV vaccine recommended for elementary school-aged kids

https://www.leefamilynews.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/vaccine-WEB-vial-needle-july-2024.jpgHPV vaccine recommended for elementary school-aged kids

By Dr. Nathan Landefeld

It’s no exaggeration to say that the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine is the most important vaccine we give to our pediatric patients. HPV causes about 35,000 cancers every year in the United States.

HPV vaccines have the potential to save over 10,000 lives per year! In comparison, that is far more than the roughly 200 lives saved by the meningitis vaccines we give to 11 and 16-year-olds.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is very common: 60% – 90% of adults in the U.S. have antibodies to a strain of HPV. Someone’s first sexual encounter will likely involve exposure to this virus. Fortunately, most of the 150 known strains are harmless. However, the nine strains the vaccine protects against are “oncogenic,” or cancer-causing. These strains are responsible for about 70% of all throat and mouth cancers, 90% of genital warts, and more than 90% of all cervical cancers. They cause cancers in both males and females, so the vaccine is for all children, not just girls.

The HPV vaccine is working beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. For example, in Australia, where uptake of the vaccine is very high, they are on track to eradicate cervical cancer over the next decade. We are beginning to see big decreases in throat and mouth cancers too. These generally strike in later adulthood, so it takes longer to see improvements.

It is recommended that all children start the two-dose vaccine series at age 9 to 12 years. Why would we give a vaccine for a sexually transmitted virus to 9-year-olds? Because it simply works better at that age. The amount of antibody generated from the vaccine (and therefore the ability to fight off the HPV), when given in pre- or early adolescence, is greater than if you wait until 14-16 years old. Studies show that the series is more likely to be completed when started at this age.

So two injections separated by at least six months when given in preadolescence, can prevent thousands of precancers, cancers, and deaths. I would hate to hear about any adult being diagnosed with a cancer that could have been stopped with two shots that they missed in elementary or middle school.

 Nathan R. Landefeld, M.D., FAAP, is with Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida) with offices throughout Lee County. www.ppcswfl.com

— familynews
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