In the wake of the AAP's release of new HPV immunization recommendations for kids, now a new report from the CDC, published in the journal Pediatrics, has found that a decade of vaccinating against the potentially cancer-causing human papillomavirus has cut infections by an impressive 64 percent among teen girls.
"We are continuing to see decreases in the HPV types that are targeted by the vaccine," commented lead researcher Dr. Lauri Markowitz, adding they have also seen declines in genital warts caused by the virus. "The next thing we expect to see is a decline in pre-cancers, then later on declines in cancer." This could take decades, however, because of how long it takes for cancer to develop, she noted.
Unfortunately, according to another recent CDC report, vaccination rates are too low for girls, and nearly non-existent for boys. Less than 50 percent of girls between 13 and 17 get the recommended series of three shots, while just 22 percent of boys do. This is really too bad, given the highly effective nature of the immunization.
According to Dr. Markowitz, doctors' reluctance to discuss kids' sexual health with parents is the reason immunization rates are not higher. Parents.com previously talked to Alix Casler, M.D., FAAP, medical director of pediatrics at Physicians Associates - Orlando Health about this very topic. She said: "Parents' biggest concern is probably that it's difficult to think about their children becoming sexually active, but that's the whole point of immunizing at 11 to 12 years old. At [that age], the response to vaccines is superb...and guarantees excellent protection later on when it will matter."
She advised parents—and by extension, doctors—keep the conversation about sexual safety completely separate; in fact, that discussion may come much later. Instead, focus on the effectiveness of the vaccine, which is reflected in this newest report. Consider that researchers found the prevalence of the types of HPV the vaccine targets decreased among girls between 14 and 19 from 11.5 percent in 2003-2006 to 4.3 percent in 2009-2012. And for women between 20 and 24, that number went from 18.5 percent down to 12 percent.
The takeaway: The vaccine works, and it may save your child's life.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.