HPV vaccines and cervical cancer


  • Ask Dr G
  • Sunday, 10 Jan 2016

The Human Papilloma Virus - File pix

I admire great buildings, and I respect the architects behind it. A remarkable building is a legacy for the next generation to enjoy. The architects leave their “mark” of passion and a story of their achievement.  

One of the most esteemed and well-regarded architects in modern times is of course, Norman Foster. He was born into a working class family in Stockport and at a young age, he did well in school and was inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.  

Foster followed his passion and won the Henry Scholarship to Yale School of Architecture, before his return to the UK in 1963. Foster’s contribution to the field of architecture is simply enormous.  

Foster married his business partner Wendy Cheesman, who died in 1989 and left him with four sons. 

He once said: “A life threatening illness or two certainly give you an awareness of your own mortality. It heightens your sense of gratitude for things that previously, if you have not taken them for granted, you perhaps never appreciated how precious they are. That’s almost platitude, but one has to state the obvious.”  

We start this year with the cervical cancer awareness month. I would like to bring awareness of how we can leave the legacy of health to the future generations.  

Dear Dr G,  

Thank you in advance for answering my questions. Technically, it is not about sex.

My name is Judy and I have two children. My boy is aged 16 and the girl is aged 13.  

I have been rather troubled by the issue of vaccination for HPV for my children. 

The school had provided options for vaccinations of various diseases such as Hepatitis B, rubella, mumps and HPV. Of course, I have agreed to all of them, except HPV.   

To be honest with you, I feel rather apprehensive about the vaccines because of the sexual connotation it has with sex.  

I read up a few articles online, highlighting the dangers of such vaccines. Recent publications indicate that many pediatricians discouraged children to having such vaccines. Is that true?  

I am determined to make a decision for my children this year. I need your help and clarifications.  

Regards,

Judy.  

One of the biggest landmark discoveries in modern times that can potentially change the landscape of medicine is the link of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to cancer. This includes anal, penile and cervical cancers.  

German virologist Professor Harald Zur Hausen, who was initially ridiculed by the medical world, won the 2008 Nobel Prize for his work in the last 30 years. Of course, his work had also paved the way for the development of vaccines against HPV, with the hope of the eradication of the deadly cervical cancer.  

The vaccines against HPV was approved in 2006 and resulted in many vaccination programmes across the world. The efficacy of the vaccines in preventing two strains of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers are never in dispute.  

However, critics argued that these two strains only account for 70% of the cancers, with the remainder being linked to other strains. 

Such vaccination programmes may not deliver enough public health benefits to justify its cost. In fact, in response to such concerns, the use of nine-valent HPV vaccines is already approved, targeting five additional strains of HPV, adding 14% more protections for girls and 5% more for the boys against cancers.  

The recent publications from University of Colorado in the American Academy of Pediatrics found more than one-third of nearly 600 pediatricians and family physicians say they don't strongly recommend the vaccine to those between ages of 10 and 12.

The doctors surveyed cited barriers as parents concerns on safety and refusal. Other studies also highlighted that less than 60% of the girls on the vaccination programme completed the three-course vaccination. Clearly, this is a worrying trend observed in the fight against HPV-related cancers.  

Here are more facts: Seventy-nine million Americans are infected with HPV and more than 14 million annually contract the infection. HPV is responsible for the majority of cervical cancers and there are approximately 11,000 cases of such diagnosis in the United States each year.  

In addition, HPV can result in genital warts and oral, anal and penile cancers. Once you get HPV, there is no cure. Although HPV will not cause serious illness for most people, there is no way to predict who will develop cancer from the virus.  

Another issue that needs to be considered is that one in 10 people with the vaccination may suffer mild fever with a minority getting itching around the injection site. 

To date, more than 40 million doses of vaccines had been given to the public, and no related fatality had been recorded.  

The Greek philosopher and scientis, Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great, once said: “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.”  

It is essential do our part to protect the future generation from cervical cancer and eliminate HPV - and this is through vaccination. 

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


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HPV , cervical cancer , health , vaccines

   

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