The choice to vaccinate your daughter against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect her against cervical cancer is a difficult one, fraught with controversy. There is no one right answer, only the one that works for you and your daughter. To help make the decision that’s best for her, get the facts about HPV and the vaccine by reading the following Q and A.
Q. What diseases are caused by HPV? A.There are four common types of HPV. Two of them cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer. The other two cause 90 percent of all genital warts.
Q. What are the side effects of the HPV vaccine? A.Common side effects include pain, swelling, itching, bruising and redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and fainting. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have determined that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of its side effects. However, girls with yeast allergies should not receive the vaccine, as yeast is an ingredient and could cause a severe allergic reaction
Q. I’ve heard of children actually getting a disease from a vaccine because the vaccine contained a live virus. Could this happen with the HPV vaccine? A.No worries – the HPV vaccine does not contain a live virus. It contains a protein that helps the body fight HPV, so there is no risk of your daughter getting HPV or any disease caused by HPV from the vaccine.
Q. I know my daughter isn’t sexually active. In fact, she’s at the age where she’s just starting to learn what sex is. Isn’t she too young to be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine?
A.Actually, the HPV vaccine is for girls and young women ages 9 to 26. It works best when given before there is any possible contact with HPV.
Other things you should know about the HPV vaccine:
- It is a series of three shots given over a six-month period. Your daughter will be best protected if all three doses are given at the correct intervals.
- If she is vaccinated, your daughter will still need regular gynecological exams and Pap smears starting at age 18 to check for other reproductive health issues.