Dispelling the myths about HPV vaccine
Since 2006, there has been a vaccine recommended for prevention of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)—an infection affecting nearly one in four Americans.
The current HPV vaccine is effective against nine types of HPV, which cause more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancer. The vaccine has proven to be safe and highly effective. The HPV vaccine series is recommended between the ages of 11-12, although it can be given from 9-26 years of age.
"Despite the fact that HPV vaccine has been routinely recommended since 2006, completion of the series remains low, especially compared to other teen vaccines. One reasons for low HPV vaccine rates is the persistence of common myths about HPV disease and the vaccine," states Gundersen pediatrician Rajiv Naik, MD, FAAP.
Below Dr. Naik reviews and dispels common myths about the HPV vaccine. His responses may aid in answering questions that you receive from patients.
Myth: HPV vaccine is too new.
HPV vaccine was licensed in 2006, around the time as other common teen vaccines (Tdap and meningococcal) which are now widely accepted. More than 200 million doses have been given in over 130 countries. Studies after licensure have continued to show high effectiveness and safety.
Myth: It's too early to give HPV vaccine.
The immune response is better in younger patients. Only two doses are required if started before age 15 rather than three doses if started at age 15 or later.
Myth: Giving HPV vaccine early will make my pre-teen think about sex or lead to sex.
Studies have shown that giving HPV vaccine to pre-teens does not lead to early or increased sexual behavior.
Myth: We are giving too many vaccines.
Our immune systems can respond to billions of antigens and responds to many thousands of them. In the entire childhood vaccine series, there are 130-140 unique antigens. This is "a drop in the bucket" compared to the number of antigens we are exposed to in everyday life and common infections.
Myth: There are toxic preservatives in vaccines.
HPV does not contain Thimerosal, a common preservative used in the past. HPV vaccine does contain aluminum to help with the immune response. We are exposed to and ingest aluminum daily in food, medicine and cosmetics. The amount of aluminum in HPV vaccine is 0.5 mg per dose. By comparison, the aluminum contained in all vaccines is similar to that found in 32 ounces of infant formula safely ingested by babies each day.
Myth: HPV vaccine will cause infertility, cancer or other serious problems.
HPV vaccine was studied in more than 20,000 people before approval for routine use and is now followed in post-approval studies in greater than 60,000 subjects. In addition, the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database tracks any concerns about any vaccine. This system helps identify rare problems. These studies and tracking systems involving millions of people show there is no significant difference in more than 200 categories of illness, death, emergency room visits or hospitalizations after HPV vaccination compared to the baseline population.
Myth: Boys don't need HPV vaccine.
HPV infection is a common infection in both males and females. Males get about half the number of cases of HPV-related cancer that women get and can put their partners at risk by spreading HPV.
Myth: HPV vaccine is not effective.
HPV vaccine is extremely effective with more than 99 percent of people having antibodies after vaccination. Studies have shown nearly 100 percent protection against pre-cancers and genital warts.
"As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to guide and educate parents and their children. Science and experience show that HPV vaccine is safe and highly effective. We can protect our communities from these terrible cancers by making sure adolescents receive their HPV vaccination series on time," adds Dr. Naik.
For questions about HPV vaccine, contact Dr. Naik in Pediatrics via MedLink at (800) 336-5465.