“HPV Vaccination In Children will lead to promoting unsafe sexual activities.”
“My daughter is still very young, she’s not / will not / should not be engaged in any sexual activity and won’t be for a long time.”
“The vaccines are really expensive, perhaps later when she’s older.”
I’ve been getting responses such as these from several parents, while trying to advocate them to protect their children from HPV. For those who are still unfamiliar with the term, HPV is an acronym for Human Papillomavirus. Notably, it is a virus that is responsible for causing Cervical Cancers. Additionally, HPV also causes other types of HPV-related cancers to both male and female. All of which, no cure are currently available. However, it is quite effectively and easily preventable through vaccination. Therefore, I’ve decided to cover an article regarding common parental concerns on HPV Vaccination In Children. From the fear of sexual behavior impact, immune responses, financial impact, and safety of the vaccine.
1. They Will Grow Up At Some Point
I understand, that especially in Indonesia, we still uphold the Eastern Culture. Where every parent wants to believe that their son or daughter will remain abstinent until marriage. And undoubtedly, some may. Nevertheless, the reality is that some children, even as young as 12 and 13, are already involved in sexual relations and this reality is what has influenced the age at which the HPV vaccine is recommended. Here is what the studies in 2012 suggest:
- 2.4% boys and 1.2% girls under 12 are involved in romantic relationships
- 32.1% boys and 30.9% girls aged 12-14 are involved in romantic relationships
- 42.7% boys and 47% girls aged 15-17 are involved in romantic relationships
- Children living in big cities compared to rural areas shows no significant difference
- Age to first penetrative sex encounter are illustrated in the graph below
These datas regardless, judging by the discrepancy between male and female sexually active percentages, may contain bias regarding truthfulness during data collection. However, we can still see an increase between 2007 and 2012.
And since transmission of HPV can be through kissing and oral sex as well, it’s important to note that as many as 51% of 15-24 year-olds are having oral sex before they have their first sexual intercourse.
2. No Link Between HPV Vaccination In Children & Unsafe Sexual Behavior
From January 2005 to December 2010, a large 5-year study observes 21,610 HPV vaccinated females and 186,501 non-vaccinated females. This study uses insurance claims database of 12-18 years old females. The goal was to examine whether there are associations between HPV Vaccination with an increasing rates of sexual behavior. In doing so, it uses treatment for STIs (Sexually Transmitted illnesses) as a proxy for sexual behavior. Over the course, HPV Vaccination coverage increased from 2.5% at the end of 2006 to 27.3% by the end of 2010. Investigators found no evidence of an association between HPV vaccination and higher STI rates. “Even among females who were more likely to be sexually active before HPV vaccination as measured by contraceptive medication use, there was no evidence of increased unsafe sexual behavior,” they wrote.
Besides, it’s never about sex. It’s about protecting and preventing them from Cancer as early as possible. Dr. Erin Scherer, a research associate in the Galloway Lab at Fred Hutch, said the lack of faith in a vaccine that’s essentially 100 percent effective in preventing HPV — a virus that impacts nearly all men and women at some point in their lives and can lead to cervical, anal, vaginal, penile, vulvar and head and neck cancers — is “very frustrating.”
“It’s my understanding that parents don’t want to have a conversation with their children about sex,” she said. “But you don’t have to have a conversation about sex when giving HPV Vaccination in Children. The vaccine protects against cancer. When I was vaccinated as a child, my parents never explained tetanus or what an MMR booster was. I just got a shot to keep me from getting sick.”
3. HPV Vaccination In Children Below 15 Years Is More Effective
Results from studies of HPV vaccination indicate that over 99% of vaccinated women developed antibodies after vaccination. But it’s also important to note that antibody levels were higher in the younger populations. Girls who receive vaccination at the age of 9-15 years old seem to generate a better immune response to the vaccine as compared to those who were 16-26 years old. This just reinforces the fact that the vaccine is best when administered at a young age.
4. HPV Vaccination In Children Below 15 Years Is Financially Beneficial
Are you’re familiar with the 3 doses HPV Vaccinations requirement? Have you been complaining about the costs? Then here’s the good news. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has announced data results from clinical trials in October 20th, 2016. Children and Preteens aged 9-14 produces similar or higher immune responses after 2 doses of vaccination, compared to older teens, young adults and adults receiving 3 doses. This means that it is both cheaper to vaccinate at a younger age, as it is easier for the parents (less amount of times) to take their children/preteen for vaccination. Children and Preteens aged 9-14 require only 2 doses of HPV Vaccination!
5. Lower Risk For Cervical Dysplasia & Genital Warts
Researchers from Canada found that girls who received the HPV vaccine at an earlier age were also less likely to suffer with Cervical Dysplasia and Genital Warts. Notably, HPV being the cause of both diseases. 260,493 girls were subject to the study. Vaccination were given in 8th and 9th grade and then both the vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals were tracked through 10th, 11th and 12th grade. Of which to see whether there were cases of cervical dysplasia or genital warts.
What researchers discovered was that of the 2,436 cases of cervical dysplasia that were recorded between Grades 10 to 12, 44% fewer cases were found to occur in the girls who had received the vaccine. This translated into 5.7 fewer cases of cervical dysplasia and 0.34 fewer cases of genital warts for every 1,000 girls vaccinated.
6. Safety Concerns
I think it is very understandable that parents are still hesitant. Especially when Indonesian parents still lacks the awareness regarding the matter. After all, inaccurate information about the safety of the HPV Vaccine is continuously circulating on the internet. However, to be an informed and educated parent, one must learn that “research” involves more than just believing everything you read on the internet. It involves checking valid sources and looking at the scientific evidence.
The HPV Vaccine is not surprisingly new. Approximately 57 million doses of HPV vaccine have been administered in the US alone from June 2006 through March 2013. In that time, there has been an enormous amount of research that demonstrates that the HPV vaccine is not only well-tested, but extremely safe. In fact, it has been further studied that most of the side-effects (fainting, high blood pressure, stomach ache, chills, headache, etc) are due to needle phobia, and not the vaccine itself.
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