Why Skipping HPV Vaccination Dangerous

The vaccine against HPV is a breakthrough in the scientific approach to disease prevention. While it is becoming more popular, as more children are being vaccinated, there are still a lot of things we fall short of achieving. A recent research revealed that fewer teenagers complete the shot series, thus making the vaccine less effective.

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Human papillomavirus, which is often abbreviated as HPV, is a major contributor to the risk of developing cervical cancer and some other forms of the disease. The vaccine introduction enabled the government to implement a program aimed at prevention of certain cancer types – a thing that may look too good to be true, but it appears its effectiveness at keeping the virus at bay is really good.

According to a new review of 26 researches carried out by a team of scientists from Belgium, the vaccine effectiveness is close to 99%, as far as prevention of abnormal cervical cells, which are associated with cancer, is concerned. There is evidence suggesting more Americans are willing to vaccinate their children against HPV, but the figures are not as good as the government–and doctors– wants them to be.

Not so easy

In order to get the vaccine to work properly, two or three shots are required – the number of them depends on the person age. Vaccination is recommended for ladies up to age 26, and males up to age 21. The first short should be received at age 11 or 12. The main reason the timing is restricted is that the vaccine becomes less effective if used in sexually active people who have already encountered the virus. For some social groups, like sexual minorities, there is no such age limit.

For those aged 11-12, two shots are required, with a gap of 6-12 months between them. If your child is older than 15 y.o., a series of three shots is received within 6 months.

Skipped shots affect effectiveness

A recent study published in AJPH found that those who start the vaccination process tend to fall out of it, mostly due to forgetting when the next shot is due. If the subsequent shot(s) is postponed for more than a year or skipped at all, there is no telling whether it will work.

It appears that the major culprit is that people forget about the rest of the shots and fail to schedule the next one right after the first shot is received. Many people say they would appreciate some kind of notification to make sure they do not miss their vaccination. Otherwise, the risk of leaving the process incomplete is rather high.

Frustrating statistics

Back in 2006, the rate of vaccine series completion was impressive, as it was 67%. Eight years later, the figure dropped to 38%, which means fewer people get vaccinated properly, despite the growing numbers of those willing to receive the first shot.

HPV vaccination is important, because it can help prevent a wide range of cancer types, including vaginal, anal and cervical cancer, as well as cancer of the penis, vagina, vulva and throat. The most dangerous HPV strains, which the vaccine is designed to fend off, are behind 90% of all anal and cervical cancer cases. Such statistics makes it quite clear that vaccination of children could be beneficial.

The overall number of those receiving the first shot is increasing (for 2015-2016, it was 27.4% of males aged 9 to 26, and 45.7% of females). However, it appears that doctors could draw attention of parents to the importance of vaccination in a more effective way by explaining why it is recommended and reminding them about the next shot. Scheduling all shots in advance could also help not to skip vaccination and complete the series.

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