A Degree In HPV

If you’re like me, you worry about any medicine you give your child let alone inject into their little  body – whether it’s been around for a 100 years or it’s the latest cure all.  I’m always leery. 

So, I certainly understand the hesitation and even suspicion when it comes to the Gardasil vaccine.  Better known as the HPV Vaccine, it’s supposed to safeguard our kids from contracting the human papilloma virus which can cause both genital warts in mild cases and deadly cancers in others.  Originally it was sold as a way to prevent cervical cancer in women, but now it’s recommended for boys too, since they are carriers. 

Bottom line, the Centers for Disease Control and FDA recommend girls and boys both get the vaccine prior to becoming sexually active.  And when you consider 1 in 8 college students will carry it…it’s a real threat.

However, there have been numerous reports of dire side effects, from death to mental retardation…though no science thus far has been able to link any of them to the Gardasil vaccine.  But, let’s be honest, when it comes to the health and well-being of our children, even anecdotal accounts of things that can go wrong are scary.  They don’t even have to be logical. 

Since my own son entered middle school and I saw dating as something looming on the horizon, I thought I better get educated about this vaccine and the virus itself.  And what I’ve learned is alarming.

I met with Dr. Sudi Moein an OB/GYN and founder of the Women’s Integrative Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology in Poway and Hillcrest. She alerted me to the fact that 75-80 percent of sexually active adults will acquire HPV infection before they reach 50 years old.  That’s a lot of people.  And it spreads easily.  So, in essence, it’s an epidemic.

Girls can be vaccinated as early as 9 years old or before they become sexually active.  (Governor Jerry Brown signed into law girls can get the vaccine without parental consent at 12 years old.)    However, it’s recommended for all girls/women between the ages of 9-26.   

Dr. Moein says if you’re over 26, make sure to get regular pap smears so that cervical irregularities can be caught early on.    It seems a no brainer when you look at the statistics of 20 million Americans already infected and 6 million a year becoming infected…but, it’s not that simple.

Because it’s a sexually transmitted disease, it carries a lot of controversy along with it.  It can be an uncomfortable discussion, learning if your children are sexually active.  Dr. Moein says the conversation is necessary and educating yourself as a parent is imperative. 

There’s too much at stake.  From cervical to penile cancer, from anal to oral cancer, she says the virus is a cancer causer and wherever it lands it’ll do its job.  And with the casualness of oral sex in our middle and high schools today, the possibilities of transmitting it, unfortunately, seem endless.

I’m not recommending you get the vaccine for your children.  I believe that is a HIGHLY PERSONAL decision.  But, I do agree with Dr. Moein, that every parent needs to really investigate the issue in and out and make an informed decision that’s best for you and your family.  Don’t go by what they say in debates or PSA’s…find your own middle ground and study the facts.  That way…you’ll have no regrets.

Be Well.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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