Monday, December 13, 2010

Children and the HPV Vaccine

It has been decades since children heard the words, “Don’t go outside and play”, or “You cannot go outside and play with your friends. As a matter of fact, it has been so long, that parents of young children today have probably never heard those words, nor did their parents – perhaps their grandparents though.

Years ago, children were sequestered inside their homes, unable to go outside as they do today and interact with their friends. The reason – disease, but not just any disease, communicable deadly diseases such as polio, typhoid fever, measles, mumps and rubella. These diseases claimed thousands of lives each year.

It was not until mass immunization came into practice, requiring school-aged children to be vaccinated if they were to attend school that things changed. Today when parents visit their pediatricians, they are given a list of required immunizations required by law. If their child does not have these immunizations when it comes time for school, they simply will not be admitted.

Cancer is a disease which has killed hundreds of thousands of individuals during this interval and prior. However, until recently (about thirty years ago) several cancers, in particular cervical and also Hepatitis have been linked to viruses.

Since its connection to cervical cancer in 1984, and the advent of HPV testing, the number of cases of cervical cancer in the United States has decreased dramatically. However, in other less developed countries cervical cancer still remains the number one cancer killer in women. Also since 1984, HPV has been found to cause numerous other types of cancer including vulvar, vaginal, anal, and penile – all genital in nature. HPV is considered the number one communicable sexual disease with 80% of the population being infected with HPV at some time in their lives.

What is alarming is that more recently, HPV has been shown to affect other organs not considered sexual in nature such as the head/neck, mouth/tonsil and even lungs. Who knows how many other cancers are indeed causes by this one virus?

In many states the HPV vaccine was made mandatory for school admission. Many of those states are reconsidering their decisions with some rescinding earlier rulings. Is this a good thing? Not given research showing that the human papillomavirus can be transmitted through means other than sexual contact but via foamites.

Foamites are inanimate objects which can harbor the virus. A virus which is very difficult to destroy even at very high temperatures including those normally found in your washing machine. Many ill-informed parents are refusing to have their children immunized against HPV but it is just those parents who should be asking themselves how often their child may share a drinking cup or utensil with a classmate in the cafeteria.

Most parents would agree that they do not want to isolate their children from social interactions with friends which aid them in becoming well-rounded adults. Nor do they want to expose them to any form of cancer and even with the idea that celibacy can prevent exposure to HPV there is no test for men so a wife can still acquire the virus from her husband even if she has remained celibate.

It is time that parents view the human papillomavirus as the threat that it is and regulated or not, to have their child immunized against this proven cancer causing virus. Speak with your pediatrician or family doctor and research information of HPV at various reputable websites such as

We are all concerned for our children’s health, but I don’t think any parent wants to have to answer their child’s question, “Mommy, why can’t I go outside and play with my friends?”