HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccines like GARDASIL® (marketed by Merck) and CERVARIX® (marketed by GlaxoSmithKline) have been widely available since 2006 and 2009, respectively. However, in an analysis of national survey data, 40% of parents in 2010 said that they did not intend to have their adolescent daughters vaccinated.
The study partially points a finger at doctors who may not be advocating for the vaccine as strongly when girls are in their adolescent years and may be waiting until they reach their later teens to bring up the discussion. It is an understandable dilemma that some healthcare providers face: how to talk to the parent of a 12 year old about vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease. Not surprisingly many parents would also be hesitant to broach such a sensitive subject when their child is at a young age. However, the findings suggest that this is exactly when healthcare providers need to be the most vigilant. As teens get older, their trips to the doctor often decline resulting in many missed vaccinations. Additionally, clinical trial data has shown that children of ages 11 and 12 responded the most strongly to the protective potential of the vaccine.
So why are parents so reluctant to vaccinate against HPV? Concern over safety was indicated by many of the parents when asked for a reason for not having their child vaccinated. The percentage of parents with safety concerns rose from 4.5% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2010. Last year, the worry about safety and side effects neared that of the most common reason – “not needed or not necessary” – at 17.4%.
Even though 52.4% of parents have reported that their doctors recommend all vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, the intent to skip the HPV injections rose from 39.8% in 2008 to 43.9% in 2010.
The HPV vaccines currently on the market prevent against 2 strains of the virus that cause up to 70% of cervical cancer cases. While the makers cannot guarantee 100% efficacy, a clinical trial of CERVARIX® found that the vaccine was approximately 92% effective at preventing CIN1/2/3 cervical lesions over a mean follow-up period of 35 months.
In addition to the preventive vaccines now available, Coridon is presently in the midst of conducting their own early clinical trials for a novel therapeutic HPV vaccine using their DNA immunotherapy technology. However, if it does prove successful like early results have indicated, it will still be several years before it hits the market. According to the CDC’s website, about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women every year, with cervical cancer being the most common. That means we cannot afford to wait.
GARDASIL® is the only one out of the two vaccines now available that can also be administered to boys and young men, and has also been shown effective at preventing against cervical, anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers as well as some strains that cause genital warts.
Prevention of any disease is preferable to treatment, both physically and quite often financially. While safety is a valid concern, we must look to the data to determine what the real risk is. For many, the risk is taken when the choice is made to skip the vaccine. Almost every single person that is sexually active will be exposed to at least one strain of HPV. Why take a chance on your child’s health?