Summertime in the pediatrician's office means lots of check ups, and often this includes those tweens/teens/and college students who were “too busy” to schedule their doctor’s appointments during the school year. The next three months will be busy indeed.
With HPV back in the news after Michael Douglas revealed that his throat cancer was due to HPV, what better time to remind parents and young adults of the need for the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine has been available in the U.S. for over seven years, but statistics from the CDC continue to show that the HPV vaccine is still not being given at the same rate as other recommended vaccines. In other words, we doctors need to ensure that every person between the ages of 11-26 who we see is offered the vaccine, this also means we need to educate.
HPV causes CANCER! This is truly the first anti-cancer vaccine, and I am hopeful that I will see more vaccines to prevent cancer while I continue to practice. I am sure that there will be more anti-cancer vaccines in our children’s lifetime. This is exciting news as research continues on ways to combat cancer.
But.....for some reason (that is difficult for me to understand both as a parent and a physician), some parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated despite ongoing evidence that HPV is widely prevalent and causes numerous cancers. The fact that this virus is transmitted sexually seems to be the root cause of parental concern. Do parents not assume that their own children will become parents one day as well? Don’t they want to be grandparents one day? Well, that means having sex with a partner. At some point in time, our children do become “sexually active” and shouldn’t they all be protected as much as possible?
Giving adolescents the HPV vaccine does not promote sexual activity. In fact, I think that by having a discussion about sexually transmitted diseases in an open and frank manner adolescents are more aware of the risks associated with pre-marital sex and multiple partners.
My adult sons gave me a huge compliment the other day when HPV was back in the news - they said “Mom, remember when you gave us that vaccine “off label”? We thought you were crazy but you were really smart!” I will take any praise I can get....I just smiled.