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A vaccine to fight HPV (human papillomavirus) has proven to be effective. A study released in Pediatrics shows a sharp decrease in the number of HPV cases within the six years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) introduced the HPV vaccine — a 64 percent decrease in 4vHPV type prevalence among females aged 14 to 19 years and a 34 percent decrease among those aged 20 to 24 years.
Mayo Clinic family medicine physician Dr. Summer Allen says, "This information reinforces the impact of the vaccine. What’s even more impressive is the decrease in the HPV prevalence when our vaccination coverage rates remain low." Dr. Allen offers more insight on the vaccine.
Importance of vaccine
"The exposure risk to HPV is real. One out of 4 in the U.S. will be infected with at least one strain of HPV, and the vaccine is an opportunity to protect themselves against some of the high-risk types associated with cancer," says Dr. Allen.
About the vaccine
"In 2014, the 9-valent (9vHPV) form became available, which covers the four HPV types in the previous quadrivalent vaccine plus an additional five types also considered high-risk types of HPV. The vaccine is a three-part series, although as the study showed, at least one dose is better than none at all. For female patients, obtaining the HPV vaccine series does not replace the need for recommended cervical cancer screening with a Pap smear which starts at age 21," says Dr. Allen.
"A common concern I have heard from patients and health care colleagues regarding the HPV vaccine is that, 'If I give it to them' or 'If I recommend the vaccine,' then 'I'm saying it is ok to become sexually active.' This is far from the truth – the HPV vaccine series is given to prevent cancer," says Dr. Allen.
Who should receive the HPV vaccine
"It is licensed starting at age 9 for both females and males. Since many adolescents are seen between ages 11 to 13 when the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and Meningococcal vaccines are recommended, this is a great time to have a discussion regarding the vaccine with their health care team and start the series," says Dr. Allen.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, and the CDC estimates 80 million Americans are currently infected. There are more than 100 variations of HPV, often referred to as low risk (can cause warts) and high-risk (may cause various forms cancer). HPV can cause over 17,000 cancers in women, and over 9,000 cancers in men each year. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer linked to HPV.