HPV - What

Ever since the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, parents have been confused because of varying opinions, reports about adverse effects or simply do not have enough information. This article will shed some light on the subject and clarify some misconceptions regarding the vaccine.

Myth 1

HPV vaccine is a new vaccine that has not been well studied.

Fact 1

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most persons infected with HPV have no symptoms and so can spread the infection without their knowledge. Infection with HPV may result in warts in the anal and genital region and a variety of cancers, including cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis and head and neck. The relationship between HPV infection and cervical cancer has been known since the 1990s. The first vaccine to prevent infection caused by four different types of HPV (Gardisil) was licensed in 2006.

The quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardisil) for first recommended for routine administration to females aged 11 or 12 years old in June 2006. It was first recommended for administration in males in October 2009. Between June 2006 and March 2013 there have been approximately 57 million doses of Gardisil vaccine distributed throughout the United States. In the United States vaccine safety monitoring is conducted independently by federal agencies and vaccine manufacturers. Safety surveillance performed among males and females who have received the vaccine since it was first licensed has showed no new safety concerns.

Myth 2

HPV vaccine was designed for sexually promiscuous teenagers.

Fact 2

The HPV vaccine is recommended for both males and females aged 11 years to 26 years and may be given as early as 9 years.

In order to protect against HPV infection, the HPV vaccine must be given before a person becomes infected with HPV. The HPV vaccine provides the best immune response in children aged 9 to 15 years. The vaccine is still effective in persons aged 16 to 26 years, but the immune response is less than in the younger age group.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has established different times for the different childhood vaccines. The timing of each vaccine depends on the time in which the infection is more likely to be a threat to a child's health as well as the time when the child's immune response to the vaccine will be best. Timing is also dependent on the number of other vaccines that need to be given at that age.

Since the HPV vaccine works best when it is given between the ages of 9 to 15 years, the HPV vaccine is ideally given as a part of the adolescent schedule at age 11 to 12 years.

Myth 3

HPV vaccine causes death.

Fact 3

The Vaccine Adverse Event reporting System (VAERS) was established as an early warning public health system which allows individuals to report an adverse health event following any vaccination. This assists the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to detect any possible new or unexpected reported adverse events related to vaccinations. There have been reports of 85 deaths occurring in persons after receiving HPV vaccine between June 2006 and June 2013. A death may occur in an individual after her or she has received a vaccine or a medication. This however, does not necessarily mean that the vaccine or the medication was responsible for the death. All reports of deaths occurring after administration of vaccines are reviewed by medical doctors at the CDC or the FDA. A detailed report of every death reported did not show any evidence that the HPV vaccine caused these deaths.

Myth 4

HPV vaccine causes premature ovarian failure.

Fact 4

The CDC and the FDA continually monitor the safety of the HPV vaccine. They have found no reason to date to be concerned that the HPV vaccine may cause premature ovarian failure.

Premature ovarian failure may be caused by a number of reasons. Some of the causes may be related to infection, inflammation, toxin production or genetics. In the majority of cases of premature ovarian failure, no specific cause is found.

As of July 2013, there have been only two reports to VAERS of premature ovarian failure following receipt of the HPV vaccine in the United States. There have been two reports to VAERS of ovarian disorder and four reports of premature menopause following administration of the HPV vaccine. A health problem that arises after a vaccine is not necessarily due to the vaccine. Studies that have been performed since then have found no relationship between the HPV vaccine and ovarian failure. The CDC continues to monitor for any cases of ovarian failure following receipt of the HPV vaccine.

Myth 5

HPV vaccine is not effective.

Fact 5

The HPV vaccine has been found to be highly effective. More than 99% of persons who receive the vaccine produce an antibody response to the HPV types contained in the vaccine within a month of completing the vaccine series. The vaccine has been proven to be effective in preventing HPV infection caused by the types which are contained in the vaccine. The actual duration of the immune response to the HPV vaccine is not known. The duration has been studied in persons who have received the vaccine and it has been found to be at least 5 years in boys and 10 years in girls, and may be much longer.