Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates have flattened, despite new evidence that the vaccine is both safe and highly effective. While vaccinations of more than one (of three possible) doses of HPV vaccine increased from 25 percent in 2007 to 53 percent in 2011, no measurable increase in vaccinations was observed in females between 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While HPV vaccination rates leveled off, other shots recommended for teens steadily increased during the same years (for instance, DTap — combined tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — and meningococcal vaccines). Most common reasons cited for not vaccinating a child against HPV were:
• Lack of awareness about the shot.
• Doubts of its safety.
• Irrelevance because the adolescent was believed to be having no intimate contact.
Extensive data over many years show that nearly all sexually active men and women will catch at least one strain of HPV infection (contracted through any type of intimate skin-to-skin contact) at some point in their lives. Every year in the United States, 14 million people (mostly young adults) become infected with HPV, leading to 26,000 HPV-related cancers. More than 8,000 of these cancers affect men, so the vaccine is now recommended for both men (under 21) and women (under 26). Every year, of the 17,000 HPV-related cancers in women, more than 4,000 women in our country die of cervical cancer.
In the United States, vaccine safety monitoring and evaluation are very thorough. From June 2006 to March 2013, approximately 56 million doses of HPV4 vaccine were distributed in the United States. For that same period, the total number of reports to CDC and the FDA of adverse events, or undesirable medical experiences, from women following receipt of HPV4 peaked in 2008 and decreased each year thereafter; the proportion of serious reports also decreased.
Among the nearly 21,200 reports in females following HPV4 administration, 92 percent were classified as “non-serious.” Among non-serious adverse events, the most commonly reported generalized symptoms were syncope (fainting), dizziness, nausea, headache, fever and urticaria (hives); the most commonly reported local symptoms were injection-site pain, redness and swelling. Among the 8 percent of HPV4 adverse reports coded as “serious,” headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, syncope and generalized weakness were the most frequently reported.
Please immunize your children, both girls and boys, against this potentially lethal cancer-causing virus. Talk to us about your concerns and questions.