Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most of the time, the body clears it without problems. But when it doesn’t, it can lead to cancer. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and it can also lead to cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and mouth. Every year, there are more than 40,000 cases of cancer caused by HPV.
The HPV vaccine can prevent most of them.
Research shows the HPV vaccine is effective
A study published in the journal Pediatrics underlined just how effective the vaccine is. Researchers studied women ages 13 to 26 between 2006 and 2017, looking at their protection against different strains of HPV. They studied women because initially the vaccine was given only to women, so we have the longest data about its effects in women. What they found was really encouraging. Not only did the vaccine seem to protect against the strains covered by the vaccine, but women who got it were less likely to be infected by other strains, showing that the vaccine has cross-reactivity against other strains of HPV.
What was even more encouraging was that over the 10-year period, even women who didn’t get the vaccine became less likely to be infected with HPV. This is called herd immunity. By making the infection less common, those who are vaccinated help protect other people.
What makes some families hesitate about the HPV vaccine?
For some families, the fact that the vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection makes parents squeamish. While it’s understandable that parents of 11- and 12-year-olds (when vaccination usually begins, although it can be given as early as 9) might not think that their child needs to be protected against a sexually transmitted infection, vaccinating early makes sense. The vaccine works best if vaccination is complete well before they start having sex — and being realistic, not only is it hard to predict exactly when that will happen, but once teens get older it’s not always as easy to be sure they go to the doctor and get vaccinated. Doing it early ensures their protection.
And for parents who worry that giving the vaccine could somehow be perceived as permission to have sex, and might make teens more likely to do so, research shows that this doesn’t happen.
Parents also worry about the safety of the HPV vaccine. We have now had many years of experience with the vaccine, with many thousands of doses. The vast majority of side effects are mild, such as fever or muscle pain, and last only a day or two. Some teens feel faint after getting it, which is why it’s recommended that they sit or lie down for about 15 minutes afterward. While unexpected allergic reactions can always occur, lots of very careful research has not shown any serious side effects from the vaccine.
The bottom line
The bottom line: the HPV is a safe, effective vaccine that helps to prevent cancer. Whenever we are given a chance to prevent cancer, we should take it.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Colossians 3:14
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1Corinthians 13:2 NIV
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. Ephesians 5:25-26 NIV
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12 | NIV
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV
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