According to new government research released today, the prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) has decreased by nearly two-thirds since the introduction of the HPV vaccine in the United States. Some suggest the news may help to bolster the currently low immunization numbers, which according to the New York Times lie around 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys for ages 13 though 17.
The vaccine is intended to prevent certain strains of the virus and thus cancers (such as cervical and anal) caused by HPV, which is the most common sexual transmitted disease. In fact, the CDC estimates that more than 80 of sexually active males and females will contract some form of the virus in his or her lifetime. Because of the high occurrence, the risks associated with HPV and the more favorable vaccine immune responses in younger children, the CDC recommends vaccinating before the start of sexual activity, at age 11 or 12.
Yet, reluctance to the shot may likely be due to the uneasiness of vaccinating for a sexually transmitted disease at such young ages. So far, only two states and the District of Columbia, place the vaccine on the mandatory immunization schedule for school enrollment. In the 10 years since its U.S. introduction, the vaccine is still fully optional in the rest of the country, which gives those parents and doctors the option to exercise a choice on the matter. Critics of CDC’s age recommendation argue that early immunization may encourage sexual activity while advocates counter that there is no age too young if it has the potential to save lives.
So BMWK parents, we are curious, where do you stand? Is age just a number and nonfactor when it comes to your child’s long-term health? Or do you still feel a little disquieted about the age range and prefer to delay the decision to immunize when your child is older?