Do children and young adults need the HPV vaccine?

News Archive August 28, 2014

Do children and young adults need the HPV vaccine?

Loyola University Health System pediatrician discusses the HPV vaccine

MAYWOOD, Ill. (Aug. 28, 2014) – As the school year starts in full swing many parents wonder if their child should receive the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for girls ages 11-26 and boys 11-21. There are a lot of questions and controversy around this vaccine, but many pediatricians say it comes down to protecting people from a leading cause of death.

“I often have parents ask me if their child should get the HPV vaccine and what are my thoughts about giving it. Some parents are concerned it will promote sexual activity, others think it is unnecessary and others think their child is too young. If the child falls between the recommended ages given by the American Academy of Pediatrics, I strongly recommend the vaccination. It really could be the difference between life and death,” said Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

According to Chow, there are only two shots that can prevent cancer. One is for hepatitis B and the other is the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease and is known to cause several different types of cancer, including cervical cancer, which is the second most fatal cancer for women.

“Parents need to take into consideration the anti-cancer benefits when considering if they want their child to receive the HPV vaccine,” Chow said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 20 million people in the U.S. infected with HPV and at least half of these are between the ages of 15-25.

HPV is transmitted through intercourse and genital contact. Both men and women can harbor the virus, which can remain in a person for years after the initial infection.

“One of the scary aspects of HPV is that a person can be infected and not even know it. He or she may have no symptoms at all and still be spreading the virus,” Chow said. “This is why I strongly believe in vaccinating males and females early, well before any exposure takes place."

Prevention is critical when it comes to HPV. According to Chow, the vaccine’s protection rate is 93 percent when given before any exposure. After exposure the vaccine doesn’t treat pre-existing viruses but will help protect against future exposure.

“HPV is a very dangerous virus that can lead to death. Since there is no cure, prevention is all the more important. This vaccine could save the life of your child,” Chow said.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.
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