What Your Pediatrician Isn't Telling You


For decades now, we have been actively seeking a way to stop cancer. And now that we have one – or one that can stop certain kinds of cancer – not all pediatricians are telling parents about it.

It’s the HPV vaccine and it’s the first vaccine in history to prevent any kind of cancer. That fact alone should have people lining up outside doctors’ offices to get it. However, like other vaccines, it has to be administered at a young age in order to deliver the best immunological response, so adults aren’t eligible. There’s only a limited time in which a person can get the vaccine for it to be effective.

That’s why pediatricians must discuss with parents the need for the vaccine early on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the HPV vaccine be given to preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12. The vaccine is administered in a series of three shots over a six-month period and comes in three different forms.

So why aren’t all pediatricians talking to parents about the vaccine? Especially when all insurance plans cover the HPV vaccine? (For people without insurance, the Vaccines for Children program at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/index.html may be able to help.)

For one thing, it’s a relatively new vaccine (one of the forms was just introduced in 2014) and many pediatricians have not integrated it into their patients’ regular vaccine strategy.

Another reason that pediatricians are often uncomfortable talking to parents about the vaccine is because HPV (human papillomavirus) is a group of more than 150 related viruses that is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, i.e. sexual contact.

Obviously, very few preteens are having sex. But the vaccine must be administered at that age in order to generate the best immunological response, as noted earlier, and thus be effective for when those preteens start having sex and become adults. Most adults are sexually active, and more than 80 percent of adults will get HPV at some point. Sticking one’s head in the sand because of a reluctance to talk about or acknowledge a child’s future sexual behavior can literally risk their life.

So it’s up to pediatricians to bring it up to parents and it’s up to parents to make sure that this first-of-its-kind cancer vaccine is given to their child or children, male or female. If a pediatrician doesn’t mention the vaccine to you as a parent, you should bring it up with him or her. And if a pediatrician says it’s not necessary, tell them “that’s not true” and insist upon getting it. No parent wants to see their child suffer or die and know that they could have done something to prevent it.

The three forms of the HPV vaccine are:

1)      Gardasil 9 protects against the greatest number of HPV types (nine) and is for both females and males. It prevents 90 percent of cervical cancers in women, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women, penis cancers in men, as well as head and neck (oropharyngeal) cancers, anal cancers and genital warts in both genders.

2)      Gardasil protects against the most two common types of HPV and is for both females and males.

3)      Cervarix also protects against the most two common types of HPV, but is only approved for use in females.

For more information on HPV and HPV vaccines, go to http://louisianacancer.org/hpv-vaccine/

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About Us

The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is one of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information, go to www.louisianacancer.org

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Quick facts

For the first time ever, there is a vaccine that prevents cancer.
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Not all pediatricians are telling parents about the vaccine.
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The HPV vaccine should be administered to preteen boys and girls to be effective later in life.
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Nearly every adult will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most will never know it. But it can cause cancer.
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