The HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer. This cancer is prevalent in women, but men play a part in passing the HPV virus to their female partners. Cervical cancer has a high death rate among women once the cancer appears in the cervix.
Most cervical cancers are caused by one type of HPV virus. However, the vaccine also protects against four to six types of cervical cancer, essentially eliminating this cancer in most women.
About HPV infection
Once the HPV has infected a person, the vaccine will not have any effect on prevention. Fortunately, most people have minimum symptoms when they are infected by this common virus. However, for some individuals, the infection leads to the development of cervical cancer.
Since it is not possible to know if someone will develop cervical cancer until they are infected, it is now recommended that this vaccine be given to everyone. Since HPV also causes genital herpes, this vaccine protects against this painful disease.
Criticism of the HPV Vaccine
This vaccine has been criticized by many groups who believe that those individuals that practice safe sex or stick to one partner will not be infected by the virus.
However, studies have shown that almost all of us will be infected with the virus, even those who have limited sexual interaction with others. As an example, HPV is the same virus that causes fever blisters to appear. It is believed that infections in the mouth area can be spread to the cervix.
Some persons who received the vaccine have become dizzy after injection. This has become less common with the newer vaccines and suggested injection protocols. The vaccine is given in a set of doses, usually two or three. All doses must be taken to make the vaccine effective against cervical cancer.
Current Recommendations for Administration
To prevent this cancer, this vaccine must be given to persons prior to exposure to this virus. The HPV virus is most often spread during sex, so the vacvination needs to be given before sexual activity begins.
At this point, the recommended age for the series of vaccinations is 12 or 13 years old for both sexes. Some doctors are now recommending the vaccine be given as young as 9 or 10 since some preteens start experimenting with sex by age 12.
Originally, the vaccine was not given to men, but vaccinating males has led to a decrease in infection. Men do not have a cervix, but they can get genital cancer caused by HPV in rare instances. Plus, they can spread the virus to all of their female sex partners.
Samples of vaccinated males versus non-vaccinated males were compared, and it was found that the vaccine lowered the level of HPV infections overall when given to males.
What About Adults?
If someone did not receive the vaccine in their youth, there is some benefit to receiving the vaccine between the ages of 18 to 26. The vaccine covers multiple variations of HPV, and it is possible that one may not have been infected with all of the varieties of HPV in the vaccine.
Studies have shown little benefit in taking the vaccinations after 26 because most people have been exposed to all local versions of HPV.
This vaccine is still being studied and the recommendations may change again over time. It is a good idea for all of us to keep up-to-date with current recommendations about vaccines. For more information about the HPV vaccine, you can go to the American Cancer Society’s website here.