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This week will focus on the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine which has been proven to be an effective way of preventing cervical cancer. There is extensive evidence that links HPV with the development of cervical cancer and other cancers. Most cervical cancers cases are related to HPV 16 and 18. Other HPV related conditions include; vulvar, vaginal, oropharyngeal, penile and anal cancer. HPV is also associated with genital warts and other cutaneous lesions.
Genital HPV is very common and is passed from one person to the other through direct skin to skin contact during sexual activity. It is common in early teens and early twenties. Most people will have HPV in their lives without ever knowing. The HPV vaccine is very effective in targeting the viruses that particularly cause cancer. Its protection is often lasting, beyond 10 years. Its effectiveness is seen mostly in individuals who have not been exposed to the virus before, hence its recommended in young girls before their sexual debut.
It is recommended in girls of ages of 11 and 12 years. They usually receive 2 doses of this vaccine. As mentioned above ideally it should be given to women who are not yet sexually active as they are more likely to benefit the most. However, having said that those who are sexually active can also benefit from the vaccine provided they have not been infected by the virus already. This vaccine however is not routinely given for women above the age of 26 as they are less likely to benefit.
Young boys from the ages of 11 and 12 through to 26 years can also be recommended the HPV vaccine.
This vaccine is very safe, which will be a burning question on many people’s minds considering the recent vaccine hesitancy that developed after the covid pandemic.
he vaccine was studied in thousands of people around the world, and these studies showed no serious safety concerns. Side effects reported in these studies were mild, including pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. Vaccine safety continues to be monitored by CDC and the FDA. More than 60 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States as of March 2014.
The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. Studies show that the HPV vaccine does not cause problems for babies born to women who were vaccinated while pregnant, but more research is still needed. A pregnant woman should not get any doses of the HPV vaccine until her pregnancy is completed.
Botswana introduced the 2 dose schedule of this vaccine in young girls between the ages of 9 and 13. Boys are not yet included in taking this vaccine. It is important for parents to allow their children to get this vaccine as is it a proven and very effective way of preventing HPV, which can cause cervical cancer among other cancers.