What you need to know about the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer. Each year, Quebec parents are encouraged to have their daughters, and now sons vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Parents have a difficult time deciding if they should agree to the vaccine due to some misinformation.
HPV is a very common infection that occurs once a person is sexually active. Research shows that up to 80% of women will become infected in their lifetime. Fortunately, this infection goes unnoticed in the majority of cases, because the immune system will naturally eliminate the virus.
Condoms may protect from many sexually transmitted diseases, but it does not offer complete protection against HPV.
Only 10% of HPV infections will persist for more than 3 years and may develop into cervical cancer.
The Canadian HPV vaccines (Gardasil) and (Cervarix) protects against 2 types of HPV that are responsible for the majority (around 70%) of the cancer cases and 2 that cause approximately 90% of all anogenital warts in males and females.
The vaccine works best when people are immunised before becoming sexually active and coming in contact with HPV. I heard some parents refuse the vaccine for their daughters because they believe it promotes earlier sexual activity. The vaccine is about the HPV infection and cancer, not sex.
Even if you have been vaccinated, girls and women still have to continue to be screened regularly by a Pap test. In 90% of the cases, the removal of the abnormal cells detected by a Pap test is enough to prevent the evolution of persistent HPV infection in cervical cancer.
As with any vaccines, there are many who are worried they can get sick from getting the shot. You cannot become infected with HPV from the vaccines and the vaccines do not contain any antibiotics or preservatives, including mercury or thimerosal. Vaccines are approved for use in Canada only if they meet very strict standards for safety and effectiveness.