What if you could prevent your children from getting cancer? Can you imagine having this superhero-like power? Well, you can stop imagining because this power is real. By giving your children the HPV shot—Gardasil 9—you can mitigate their risk of acquiring Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and thus, cancer.
HPV is a virus that can cause warts and cancer in the genital areas for both men and women. Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that women can obtain from this virus. According to the National Cancer Institute, most HPV infections go away by themselves. In fact, according to the CDC, 9 in 10 HPV infections disappear on their own within two years. Nonetheless, the CDC claims that 80 million people are currently infected by this virus in the U.S. Moreover, approximately 14 million people, including teens, acquire this infection each year. Once infected, the HPV virus can then “transform” itself to become a cancerous cell, says the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Thus, out of those 14 million, 33,700 cases turn into cancer in men and women each year. Even more frightening, the cancer might not appear until 15 to 25 years later. In other words, the effects of this virus can be long term. However, the HPV vaccine can “prevent most of the cancers (about 31,200) from ever developing”, says the CDC. According to LiveScience, the vaccine “protects people from nine strains of HPV, seven of which can cause cancer…and two of which can cause genital warts”.
So then why are HPV vaccination rates still so low despite their proven effectiveness? Several parents choose not to give their children HPV vaccines for multiple reasons. To start, many are uneducated about the vaccine and the virus. They often do not realize how harmless the vaccine is, for example. Furthermore, many physicians do not even recommend the vaccine to parents, according to Journal of Ethics. Therefore, parents are unaware of the consequences that foregoing this vaccine can have. Additionally, parents often do not think that their daughters are sexually active. As a result, they do not see any reason to give them this vaccine. There is also a stigma attached to the HPV vaccine, as HPV is mainly a sexually transmitted disease. Thus, parents think that giving their daughters the vaccine will “encourage promiscuity”, says Journal of Ethics.
However, while parents do not believe their children are engaged in sexual activity, they might be further down the road. Physicians recommend that children obtain these shots between the ages of 9 and 12, as the vaccine only works before exposure to the virus has been made. Therefore, the vaccine must be given before one becomes sexually active. The vaccine is given in a series of two, which are to be given between 6 and 12 months apart from one another. However, if a child is 14 years and older, then he or she needs three shots, rather than two. Vaccines can be used on young adults up to the age of 26; and recently, are proven to be useful for those up to age 45, though less effective.
Therefore, parents must use their power to reduce the risk of their children acquiring cancer later in their lives. While some families might face economic boundaries, it is still essential for them to inquire about the HPV vaccine. If their insurance does not cover the vaccines, or if they do not have insurance, there are other ways to cover the cost. Vaccines for Children Program and Merck Vaccine Patience Assistance Program are two alternatives to help pay for these—often costly, yet life-saving—vaccines.