Yes to the HPV vaccine!

I just had a driveway moment.  I wish I had coined the term but I cannot take credit.  I first heard it on NPR and coincidentally, that is exactly what I was listening to in my car when I pulled into my driveway but couldn’t get out of the car because I needed to hear the end of the news article. Host Robin Young was interviewing pediatrician Allison Kempe from the University of Colorado.  Dr. Kempe is the lead author of an article published this month in Pediatrics about her study that found many pediatricians do not recommend the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescents despite that it is well documented as being safe and highly effective in the prevention of the most common strands of HPV known to cause certain cancers.

Fact: HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.

Myth: Providing accurate information about the various aspects of sex encourages kids to be sexually active.

Dr. Kempe’s study found that doctors do not educate their adolescent patients and their parents about the importance of the HPV vaccine because they are concerned that parents feel it will encourage sexual activity. This is the same reason that often interferes with parents and school curricula addressing sex education head on.  Adults in this camp are concerned that talking about sexuality and sharing important factual information is the same as giving permission for their young audience to become sexually active. Numerous studies have indicated the opposite: they found that comprehensive sex education is more effective than abstinence-only education across a number of measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and boys receive the three-dose series starting around age 12, well before they are sexually active.  Just as we immunize our babies and toddlers against a host of diseases in the name of prevention, HPV should be part of the current adolescent panel which includes vaccines for meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.  If doctors weren’t so pressed for time, they could offer proper education about the HPV vaccine to help clear the misunderstanding that is too prevalent. I encourage readers to take 10 minutes and listen to the full radio article.  Meanwhile, I have a 12 year to go talk to now….