When the term “vaccine” has been the talk of the town, especially in recent months, it usually refers to the vaccines against the Covid-19 coronavirus. Before the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about vaccines related to flu, measles, mumps, etc. However, there is one type of vaccine that, while not often discussed, actually has one of its biggest potential effects: it can actually lower rates of some forms of cancer.
This is the vaccine against the human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV. HPV infections have long been linked to forms of cervical cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Some cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are also caused by HPV […] In general, HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, approximately 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and 60% of penile cancers. “
The CDC adds, “The HPV vaccine does not replace routine cervical cancer screening tests (Pap and HPV tests) according to recommended screening guidelines.” “However, the HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause these cancers.” It is important that “the HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases. For this reason, the HPV vaccine works best when given before exposure to HPV. “
HPV infection is not an uncommon phenomenon. In a statement released yesterday, the UVA Cancer Center said, “Nearly 80 million Americans – 1 in 4 – are infected with HPV, a virus that causes multiple cancers. Of those million, more than 36,000 will be diagnosed with HPV-related cancer this year. ”
However, the press release raises another critical problem. It says: “Despite these astonishing numbers and an HPV vaccine available, HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended vaccines for adolescents in the United States […] According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2019, only 54% of teens were up to date with the HPV vaccine, while a 2019 CDC report found that more than 90% of the US -Children were also vaccinated against hepatitis B as measles, mumps and rubella. “Those numbers have only gotten worse, in large part due to the pandemic. According to the UVA, “HPV vaccination rates among adolescents fell by 75% at the beginning of the pandemic. As of March 2020, publicly insured teenagers have missed an estimated 1 million doses of HPV vaccine – a 21% decrease from pre-pandemic levels. “
If patients continue to ignore this phenomenon, it can lead to a public health fiasco that is relatively preventable, especially given the serious consequences that HPV infection can bring.
This should not be taken as medical advice or a professional recommendation. As with anything related to patient care or medical treatment, it is always best to speak to each individual’s doctor and seek professional medical advice tailored to each patient’s individual situation and medical history. This is especially true because there may be some external situations or patient problems to be considered. Therefore, patients should always consult their doctor first to find out more and determine if this is an appropriate decision. Regarding vaccination guidelines, the CDC states at the time of this writing in May 2021: “HPV vaccination is recommended for adolescents aged 11 to 12, but can be given from the age of 9. The HPV vaccine is also recommended for anyone up to the age of 26 years if they have not already been vaccinated. HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone over the age of 26. Some adults 27 to 45 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated may choose the HPV vaccine after discussing the risk of new HPV infections and the potential benefits of vaccination with their doctor. HPV vaccination in this age group is less beneficial because more people have been exposed to HPV. “
As a rule of thumb, community health outcomes tend to be better when the social focus is on proactive, more reactive medicine. That is, why treat something if it could have been prevented at all? This is the incredible paradigm that vaccination makes possible. Regarding HPV and declining vaccination rates, patient awareness and education need to be increased to mitigate a potentially threatening but avoidable public health crisis.
The contents of this article are not implied and should in no way be replaced by professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not written or intended as such. This content is for information and news purposes only. Contact a trained doctor for medical advice.