HPV and National Immunization Awareness Month
As kids return back to school and families return to their fall routines, National Immunization Awareness Month reminds every one of the importance of vaccines for preventing disease and maintaining good health practices. Vaccines are not just for kids and adults need to stay on top of their vaccine schedules as well.
Many parents are uncertain about the HPV vaccination, and struggle with the idea of their child receiving an injection related to sexual health. The human papillomavirus or HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection; almost every sexually active person will contract at least one of the many strains of HPV at some point.
While HPV infections are cleared by the immune system, some strains can cause genital warts, and – of greater concern – some high-risk strains of HPV are associated with the development of cancer. Cervical cancer is most common cancer linked to HPV, but it can also cause anal, esophageal, vulvar and vaginal cancers.
The HPV vaccine protects against the strains of HPV known to be most commonly associated with genital warts and cancer. It is FDA-approved for both males and females ages 9-26, and the CDC recommends administration at 11-12 years of age. The best time to vaccinate is ahead of any sexual activity to allow for immunity to develop.
“The HPV vaccination is all about prevention and better lifelong health,” said Dr. Erin Stevens. “Unfortunately, many teens are not being vaccinated due to lack of awareness or information, which makes National Immunization Awareness Month the perfect time to discuss this important vaccine.”
The HPV vaccination is generally well-tolerated and the most common side effect is soreness at the injection site. Some patients may experience dizziness, nausea, flushing, headache, or a slight fever. No long-term side effects have been identified.
“If you have concerns, simply begin the conversation with your doctor or pediatrician,” Dr. Stevens added. “Even if you are not ready to have you child vaccinated yet, it is always helpful to have the latest information and to have an opportunity to share concerns and ask questions.”