June 20, 2007
HPV Vaccine Commentary
So everyone is all in an uproar about the HPV vaccine made by Gardasil, and working for the Romulus/Taylor Teen Health Center it's probably predictable that I have something to say. I'm annoyed with people continuing to make this a political issue, to me it's a cancer issue, bottom line. Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus, this is one of the rare cases in which we not only know the cause of a cancer, but how to prevent it. Cervical cancer kills approximately 37,000 woman a year, a large percentage who were infected when they were 14-18 years old, and were infected within the first 2-3 years they started having sex. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80% of woman will have had genital HPV by age 50, this is becoming an epidemic, which is why we suddenly have had such a push for a vaccine, trying to get some kind of handle on this HUGE problem. I can personally say that about half of the people I know are infected with HPV, and if they had been given a chance would absolutely have gotten vaccinated as a kid. The controversial issue is that the recommended starting age for the vaccine is about 11-12 years old, because many teens are infected between ages 14-18 and prevention could only be completely effective if given before sexual activity begins.
Now I know parents are afraid that because HPV is sexually transmitted that vaccinating their kids means they'd have to discuss sex prematurely, but how many parents discuss sex when their kids get the Hepatitis B vaccines for school (as many are mandated to do, I know I was), because although it's not often discussed Hep B is most commonly sexually transmitted? We aren't vaccinated for Hep A or C, which are transmitted through blood and fecal interaction (think impoverished countries), we are mandatorily vaccinated for the STI Hep B in the United States and there isn't this kind of uproar! This apparently hasn't been a problem, most parents don't feel the need to prematurely talk about sex, or about vaccines in general. All they have to say is "this vaccine will keep you healthy" or in the case of the HPV vaccine "this vaccine will help prevent you from getting cancer," it's simple. And as always there's an opt out option for parent who insist their kids shouldn't get the vaccine, there are some families who for religious or personal reasons sometimes avoid vaccines and medical treatment altogether, and of course there have to be exceptions based on our constitution for those kinds of beliefs.
For most people under the age of 19 there are many places where you can get the Gardasil vaccine for free or low cost, unfortunately most insurances will not cover vaccinations after age 19 (like mine), and will then have to pay $160 out of pocket for each of the three shots in the series. I personally think it's wonderful that we have options now in fighting this epidemic, not only can it prevent HPV from occurring, but it can help people who are already infected to reduce or eliminate it's affect. I just had to put my two cents in, but I'm down for questions or comments if people have them.
Here are some fast facts from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for more information.