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The vaccine against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), first introduced to the public in June of 2006, has been a God-send for some and a cause for dismay for others.
The HPV virus more than 100 strains, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and causes more than 90 percent of cervical cancers. It is also responsible for most cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, and the oropharynx (part of the back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils). The virus also causes genital warts.
According to an article in the New York Times last year, “as of 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three doses of the HPV vaccine.”
Despite its potential benefits, many parents shy away from the vaccine, citing that their child is not sexually active.
Dr. Stephanie Stevens, of Advanced Pediatric Associates in Centennial, said that her office recommends the vaccine to parents for their children—both boys and girls—by the time they reach 11 years old.
“Quite frankly, the controversy part is hard to understand from our perspective,” Stevens said, “Unless someone never has any sexual contact in their entire life.”
Stevens said HPV can be acquired from any kind of touching, not just sexual activity.
“We don’t see it as a vaccine to prevent sexually transmitted disease, we see it as cancer-prevention vaccine. We are trying to prevent cancer at a later age in life,” Stevens said.
Stevens said the HPV vaccine works better if given at an early age, recommending parents get their children the shot between 11 or 12-years-old. The body’s immune-building systems are still in full swing at that time, rather than later, Stevens added.
Stevens stressed the shot doesn’t work as well when someone is 19 or 20-years-old, when they are sexually active, the HPV shot is less effective.
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