I see tweens, teens and young women in my office most days, some with Mothers’ who are very anxious about the appointment. What I find, however, is that the idea that their little girl could ever be sexually active, often causes severe anxiety.
What does this have to do with the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine you might ask?
The current recommendations are for girls and boys (YES BOYS) ages 9-26 to receive the vaccine. It is recommended because it immunizes against the four most disease causing strains of HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer and/or genital warts. The vaccine has excellent safety data with extremely few fatal cases reported.
It is important for teens to be vaccinated before they are exposed (i.e. before they ever have sexual intercourse). Once exposure occurs, there isn’t a widely available method to determine if exposure was to the disease producing strains of the virus or to the less virulent strains.
So, parents and teens, I urge you to have an open mind about this vaccine. It protects against very preventable disease. In the United States, no woman should die of cervical cancer, the leading gynecologic cancer in less developed countries. If your Pediatrician or Obstetrician approaches you, it isn’t to urge your child to have sexual activity before adulthood or marriage. It is simply to protect them against one more preventable disease. After all, isn’t there enough that we can’t protect them from?