Annually, around 14 million adults in the US contract HPV – Human Papillomavirus – one of the most common forms of sexually transmitted diseases. A startling datapoint is the estimated rate of infections – around 80 percent of sexually active adults are expected to have HPV once in their lives. This explains the reason for the classification of HPV as one of the most common diseases that are sexually transmitted. Vaccines are presently available which are designed to offer protection against different types of the HPV. With the vaccine getting a lot of attention, it is necessary to look at hpv vaccine pros and cons to understand its effectiveness in pre-empting the disease. Here is a science backed look at the vaccine, its advantages and disadvantages.
What is HPV and what are hpv vaccine pros and cons?
Before we look at hpv vaccine pros and cons it is necessary to understand a little more about the condition. The human papillomavirus is spread mainly by skin contact – this is unlike other diseases that are spread by the exchange of bodily fluids. The disease can be contracted by any individual from any partner and can then later on spread to other partners with whom the individual has physical contact. The condition, in a large number of cases is relatively harmless and in a significant percentage of infected individuals, symptoms are not experienced. The infection generally clears naturally. Certain strains of HPV, such as type 16 and 18 are known to be potential risks for cervical cancer. These strains are known to cause the formation of lesions that may end up developing into cancer, when the patient is not screened or treated accordingly.
Risks posed by HPV
As mentioned above, while HPV is relatively harmless, persistent HPV in women above the age of 30, can be a great risk. This can manifest into cervical cancer, which typically takes as much as 10 years to actually develop into cancer. As the condition takes a sufficiently long time to develop into cancer, it is possible to screen individuals in the high risk category well in time. For instance, women who cease to be sexually active need to be screened periodically. Among the other strains and conditions attributed to HPV, oral cancers are ranked high in incidence rates. HPV is reportedly responsible for a staggering 30 percent of oral cancers. This is mainly among particular age groups who prefer oral sexual activities. Known medically as oropharayngeal cancer, the probability of contracting this condition increases when the individual has multiple sexual partners with whom oral sexual activities are performed. There are other strains of HPV, such as head and neck cancer – however these cases are extremely rare. The recovery rates of head and neck cancer is also high among individuals who do not smoke.
As we begin to look at hpv vaccine pros and cons here is a small list of factors that expose individuals who are not vaccinated to higher risk of contracting HPV. Individuals who do not practice safe sexual acts are at higher risk, as are individuals who indulge in sexual acts with multiple partners. If either of the partner has an open wound or broken skin, the possibility of transmission increases. Individuals with poor immune systems are also at risk of easily contracting the condition.
Protective measures against HPV
While condoms are often recommended as a protective measure against HPV, it is not completely effective. Condoms are not known to fully tackle the risk of contracting the disease. Safe sexual practices can prevent to a certain extent the possibility of contracting HPV. However, it may not be possible to fully protect oneself. There are a total of three different safety measures that can be used to lower the risk of contracting HPV – safe sex, regular screening and a balanced diet that is rich in folic acid. However, none of the three are actually fully preventive in nature. Screening, for instance is only a method to determine the present of the condition or the risk of manifesting into cervical cancer. Similarly, other methods only help to reduce the possibility, but do not actually fully protect an individual. This brings to focus the role of vaccines. Let us now look at hpv vaccine pros and cons in detail.
HPV vaccine pros and cons – an indepth view
There are more than 100 different strains of the HPV, and it is essential to understand that all of the strains do not create health problems. There are a limited number of strains of HPV that are responsible for genital warts, lesions, oral cancer, cervical cancer, neck and head cancer. The most common strains of HPV that impact health are types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Vaccines that are presently available typically protect against either two types of HPV, four types of HPV, or nine types of HPV. All the vaccines offer protection against HPV types 16 and 18. The vaccines are effective and offer protection to children and adults from the STD. As part of the indepth view of hpv vaccine pros and cons lets look at the benefits.
Top benefits of HPV vaccine
Offers protection against a maximum of nine different strains of HPV, including the types that pose the greatest risk of cervical cancer. The vaccine is administered as intra muscular injections over a period that is typically determined by the age of the individual. The vaccine can be administered to individuals until the age of 45 years. Three injections are administered, often spread over six months, and protection is maximum when all the three shots are administered. The different vaccines are known to offer protection against anal, cervical, oral and vulvar cancer, in addition to genital warts. One of the most important points that need to be understood in this compilation of hpv vaccine pros and cons is the ideal age group for vaccination. Medical experts recommend that the vaccination be administered at the age of 11/12 years, which will afford protection from HPV long before the teens are exposed to the possibility of contracting the virus.
Common disadvantages/adverse effects of HPV vaccine
This little list of hpv vaccine pros and cons includes the common disadvantages/adverse effects that are attributed to HPV vaccine. Among the common disadvantages, the most striking is the fact that the vaccines offer protection against nine different strains of HPV and not all strains. There are side effects that are sometimes experienced by individuals with the condition, however, these side effects are not serious or frequently reported. Most of the side effects are very rare and often of mild intensity that do not warrant any additional treatment. The most common effects that have been recorded till date include the following conditions. Pain/swelling localized to the area where the injection was administered, mild fever after the injections and mild intensity headaches that resolve naturally. Other reported conditions include tiredness, pain in the muscles and joints. Some of the conditions that are slightly intense in nature include fainting, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Some individuals are also known to have diarrhea and experience nausea after receiving the shots. However, most of the conditions resolve naturally in some time after the injections are administered. Only in cases where the condition persists, is it necessary to seek medical intervention.