The HPV Vaccine
(aka Human Papillomavirus Vaccine or Gardasil Vaccine)
By Dr. Caren Glassman and Dr. Hasita Patel
As parents, we have to make tough decisions for our children with the hopes that those decisions will have a lasting positive impact on their future. These decisions include what to feed your child, the best school for your child to attend, the most effective methods of disciplining and addressing behavior, when to allow cell phones and how to regulate screen time, when to have “the talk”, and the list goes on and on. Amongst those tough topics, includes vaccinations- vaccinations can have a huge impact on your child’s health. One of the latest and most effective vaccinations is the HPV vaccine. It can be hard to imagine that your preteen may eventually be infected with HPV- you may calculate it as a distant risk and consider waiting to give the vaccine; however, we’re here to inform you that you shouldn’t wait. In this blog post, we hope to provide information that will help you make an important decision for your child’s health.
So, what really is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that causes warts on the genitalia and in the mouths/throats of both men and women. These warts can become cancers, making HPV the most common cause of cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women, penile cancer in men and a leading cause of throat cancers in both men and women.
What is the HPV vaccine (Gardasil)?
The HPV vaccine (brand name – Gardasil 9) is a vaccine available in the US that protects against the strains of HPV associated with the majority of cervical, anal, and throat cancers. The vaccine provides immunity to these 9 strains; therefore, preventing warts and cancers. Though we call it a new vaccine- Gardasil was approved by the FDA in June 2006 – it has been around longer than the iPhone, which was released in June 2007!
Is Gardasil safe?
Gardasil is a good vaccine- it is safe and proven to be an effective vaccine. We recommend it. Like any vaccine or medicine, the HPV vaccine can cause side effects. These are mild and include pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache. Brief fainting episodes can happen after ANY vaccine and are more common in adolescents. The benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh any potential risk of side effects. On social media, Gardasil has been implicated as the cause of more serious complications, but it has been proven scientifically that Gardasil is NOT the culprit. The CDC and FDA continuously monitor the vaccine to make sure it is safe and beneficial for the public. You cannot get HPV or HPV-related cancers from the vaccine itself. Actually, did you know there have been more adverse events as a consequence of the iPhone?
When Should Your Child Get Gardasil?
The best time to give any vaccine is when the body is best able to receive the vaccine and produce a strong immune response. It turns out that for Gardasil, the younger you are, the better the immune response. In fact, a younger person’s response is so much more robust that people over the age of 15, need 3 doses to achieve the same response as 2 doses in a younger person. The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Cancer Institute all recommend that the best timing for Gardasil is age 11-12 since the vaccine produces the best immune response in ages 9-12.
The bottom line is that we believe the HPV vaccine is safe for your child and we recommend that your child get their first dose of the HPV vaccine at 11 and a booster dose at 12; thereby, completing the full series and being protected against these cancers. We encourage you to speak with your pediatrician about any further concerns about this vaccine, so we can help you make an informed decision.
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