I was at the park the other day with a mom who has daughters in middle and high school. She has been waiting to have them vaccinated against HPV because of safety concerns. Like many moms, she was understandably concerned about the short and long term safety of all medications and vaccines. We discussed the benefits and how to make these kinds of decisions as you weigh the possible risks.
I’m already seeing the benefits in my practice. There are very few people who come in with genital warts, and the numbers of abnormal pap smears has also significantly declined. The HPV vaccine helps to prevent cervical cancer and the viral infection that causes abnormal pap smears.
Knowing that about 80% of all of us have been exposed to HPV, the odds are that most of us will be exposed, which is why pap smears are so important. I was happy to be able to tell about a recent study that looked at 190,000 girls who were given the HPV vaccine and found that it was a safe vaccine.
The only 2 adverse effects are what you might expect. First, a small number of girls fainted after being given the vaccine. This is something we see with any person who gets an injection and can be prevented by having the person sit or lie down for 15-20 minutes after the injection. Second, there were a few girls who developed a skin reaction and infection after the vaccine. None were serious and all resolved. The number of skin infections was 1.8 per 1,000.
After I talked to my friend, she was more reassured about the safety of the vaccine and that the benefits far outweigh any possible risk.