Child Health, Family Health, News | 4 years ago

Vaccinate Your Kids Against Cancer? Yes, It’s Possible

For both girls and boys, the HPV vaccine is proven to prevent many types of cancer. Here’s what you need to know about protecting the health of your children for life.

When updating your child’s immunizations, there’s one vaccine that definitely should be on the list. The HPV vaccine prevents infections linked to many types of cancer, and it’s available for both girls and boys.

This vaccine is a true breakthrough: Just like vaccines protecting against polio or measles, the HPV vaccine could wipe out some cancers for future generations.

“The HPV vaccine is the only vaccine that can prevent cancer. It’s really something we’ve never seen before,” says Rhonda Patt, MD, a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, part of Atrium Health. “This vaccine will save countless lives and should be part of the basic immunization lineup for every child.”

Here’s what you need to know about the HPV vaccine:

What is it? HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a common virus that can cause genital warts, cervical cancer and throat cancer. It can also lead to many other types of cancer – sometimes appearing up to decades later. The HPV vaccine is close to 100 percent effective at protecting against the viral infection and preventing cancers that can come from it.

The earlier, the better. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends HPV vaccination for girls and boys aged 11 or 12, the approved vaccine can be given as early as age 9. Getting vaccinated by these ages can be most effective. And for children under 15, the vaccine is given in two doses rather than the three given for kids 15 and older – saving a trip to the doctor’s office.

Protection for life. The HPV vaccine offers lifelong protection if administered before kids come into contact with the virus. Because the HPV virus is transmitted through sexual contact, the CDC recommends girls and boys get the HPV vaccine before they start having sex. The timing of the vaccine is simply to ensure their protection down the road. There’s no evidence that children who receive the vaccine become sexually active earlier.

Boys need to get vaccinated too. This is not just about cervical cancer. HPV has been linked to genital warts, plus cancers of the genitals, throat, mouth, head and neck. Even if some boys don’t ever experience symptoms, they can still spread the virus to their partners.

Available since 2006, the HPV vaccine rarely leads to any serious side effects. The concerning news? Not enough kids are getting the vaccine. According to the CDC, less than half of girls in the US between 13 and 17 and just over a quarter of boys that age had finished the series of HPV vaccine doses in 2015. Getting all the recommended doses at the appropriate ages would cut the number of HPV-related cancers by nearly 28,500 a year, according to the American Cancer Society.

As always, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician about what’s right for your child’s health.