Human Papillomavirus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, genital cancer. Yet it can be easily prevented through a three-shot vaccination process, which the CDC says is underutilized. Dr. Jonathan Pletcher works at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and councils parents and their children about the vaccine and any possible risks.
The vaccine, which is recommended for boys and girls ages 9-26, is an intramuscular injection known to prevent two strings of HPV which account for 70% of genital cancers.
“Getting somebody the vaccine when they’re immune system is rapidly developing is really important,” says Pletcher.
Part of the controversy with this vaccine comes from the way HPV is primarily transmitted: sex. Some parents believe the vaccination will provide a form of permission to engage in sexual activity before they are ready. Research indicates that since the introduction of the HPV vaccination for young women, rates of cervical cancer have dropped significantly. Amongst pediatricians the vaccination has become more accepted, but many still may have questions. Pletcher encourages families to always get a second opinion if they have hesitation. He also says it’s important to find a physician partner that promotes similar social values while providing a scientific perspective of the vaccine health benefits and risks of acquiring HPV.
“HPV is a really horrible disease and this vaccine offers some hope of preventing cancer for the first time in our history.”