Just a few weeks ago, Katie Couric – one of America’s most popular journalists and talk show hosts – caused controversy when she presented a segment on her show where the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine was debated. In her own words, Couric said: “We’re hoping to tell both sides so parents can make informed decision.”
Here at Mamamia, we’ve always maintained a strong position that no – the effectiveness of any vaccine should not be debated. Because when it comes to vaccination, there is no other side. Just science.
And that’s why we asked Dr Dave Hawkes to put together a cheat sheet for us on the HPV vaccine.
Vaccination has always been a hot button topic, but since its introduction in 2007 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has attracted more than its fair share of controversy.
The host of “Katie”, well-known journalist Katie Couric, interviewed parents who claimed that the HPV vaccines could cause serious injury and death. Dr Rachel Ross from The Doctors has given several reasons, including side effects and the Japanese governments withdrawn recommendation, as to she does do not give the HPV vaccine in her practice.
So should we be worried about HPV vaccination?
Here are answers provided by science to five of the most common questions based on a research paper I recently published on the risks and benefits of HPV vaccination.
Does the HPV vaccine stop cervical cancer?
This is one of the most common questions and it is a little bit harder to answer because it takes between 10 and 20 years for cervical cancer to develop following HPV infection and the vaccine has only been available in Australia since 2007.
About 70% of cervical cancers are caused by only two of the 15 strains of HPV associated with cancer. Both HPV vaccines available in Australia (Gardasil and Cervarix) target these two strains (HPV Types 16 and 18). Gardasil also targets two strains linked to genital warts.
HPV infections lead to pre-cancerous lesions, which act as early warning signs for cervical cancer. Two of the more serious pre-cancerous lesions are called CIN2 and CIN3 and are likely to lead to cervical cancer 5% and 12% of the time, respectively. HPV vaccination has been shown to reduce CIN2 and CIN3 lesions by over 99% and this suggests that we are likely to see a drop in cervical cancer rates over the next decade.
In addition to cervical cancer HPV has been linked to a number of other cancers such as those of the penis (40% are HPV-associated), vulva or vagina (40%), anus (90%), mouth (3%) and oropharynx (12%).
If you get regular Pap smears do you still need to get the HPV vaccination?
Pap smears are a very effective way of detecting abnormal pre-cancerous cells (lesions) on the cervix, which allows them to be removed before they turn into cervical cancer. However the removal of these lesions can lead to complications during pregnancy such as giving birth to pre-term or low birth weight babies.