Debunking Common HPV Misconceptions
As a pediatrician, Dr. Mlynarek is supportive of the entire schedule of childhood vaccines recommended by the CDC and wants to address concerns parents may have about the HPV vaccine specifically.
This newer vaccine isn’t as familiar to us parents as the chicken pox or polio vaccines, so naturally, we want to know more.
1) Only Girls Need the HPV Vaccine
“Both genders are at risk of additional cancers throughout the body,” says Dr. Mlynarek.
While HPV is commonly associated with cervical cancer, its damaging effects don’t stop there.
Dr. Mlynarek explains, “Nine out of 10 HPV infections will go away by themselves within two years, but sometimes they can last longer. The virus can lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women and the penis in men.
“I will have both my daughter and my son receive this vaccine when they are of age.”
HPV is a common virus, so common in fact that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. On one end of the spectrum, it causes skin and genital warts, and on the other end, it leads to certain forms of cancer.
2) Only Sexually Active Teens Need the HPV Vaccine
The virus is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact such as vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has it. This leads many parents to believe that their own child does not need this vaccine. That they won’t practice underage sex.
While I also hope that my children will make wise choices as teens and young adults, I also don’t want to risk cancer based on my kids’ well-intentioned declarations of celibacy.
My kids also hope to never get in a car accident, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll never pay for car insurance when they learn to drive. The HPV vaccine is a type of insurance.
3) Like Flu Shots, You Must Continually Update Your HPV Vaccine
If you start the vaccine early enough, your child will likely only need two doses of the HPV vaccine. And if they don’t start till age 15, they’ll only need three doses.
“Unlike the flu vaccine, for example, research suggests that the HPV vaccine is long-lasting,” says Dr. Mlynarek “Studies have followed vaccinated individuals for 10 years and found that there is no evidence of weakened protection over time.”
4) The HPV Vaccine is Unsafe
Vaccines, in general, are a controversial subject, with the HPV vaccine igniting strong feelings in some parents.
“The HPV vaccine is so controversial because there is a lot of misinformation out there about the vaccine,” says Dr. Mlynarek. She advises that parents look at reputable sources regarding the HPV vaccine and to ask your child’s doctor questions.
If you’re concerned that the HPV vaccine is dangerous, conduct fact-based research before having your child vaccinated. Look for sources that are trusted, long time publishers of unbiased information – sources that have nothing to gain or lose from reporting clear facts about the HPV vaccine.
The most common side effect is fainting after receiving the vaccine.
“Fainting after the HPV vaccine is a known side effect and something that we monitor for in office after the vaccine is given,” says Mlynarek.