HPV Vaccinations anyone?



Before moving to Penn State, I once went I went to the doctor's where he told my mom and me about the new HPV vaccination. My mom being easily convinced by doctors' and treatments thought it would be a good idea for me to get this vaccination. However, my dad on the other hand, who is always skeptical about new medical treatments, did not think I should get this shot. They even argued about it on the phone while we were in the doctor's office! At times, I can be even skeptical about different vaccinations that are offered, especially after in class learning about how many people have been killed because of doctors thinking that their methods are accurate. At that particular moment, the doctor was pretty convincing, so I just kind of went along with it thinking, why not?

You go back to the doctor three times within about a 6 month period to complete the vaccinations and every time, they use a slightly bigger needle on you! Sorry to scare you if you are considering this shot, but just a fair warning. I can somewhat tolerate the pain of needles, but if you can't, beware!

The HPV vaccination helps prevent the human papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer. HPV is spread through sexual human contact by oral, anal or genital and can lead to cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal (base of the tongue, tonsils and back of throat) cancers. Something I did not know before was that almost all women will have an HPV infection at some point in their life, but very few of these cases will develop into cervical cancer. The National Cancer Institute taught me that there are more than 150 types of HPV, but about 40 have the capability of passing onto someone else.

Although HPV can occur in both men and woman, it is the leading cause of cervical cancer in woman. "There are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States." As a result, about 4,000 deaths occur each year due to this cancer. This is why mostly only women receive these vaccinations.

I suppose one could think that this vaccination is only needed for people who are sexually active. But that is simply not true! The Centers for Disease Control recommends girls to receive this vaccination at the age of 11 or 12! This is because the vaccine produces higher antibodies when taken at a younger age.  I know what my dad was most likely thinking...and I know my mom on the other hand was thinking about my health. But sometimes a person just has to make their own decision regardless of what their parents think. You know yourself best!

There are two different types of HPV vaccinations: Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (made by Merck). They are both licensed by the FDA and even advised by the Centers for Disease Control.  While recommended to be taken at the age of 11-12, the two vaccines are still effective for males and females between the ages of 9-26.  

The Gardasil vaccine is called a quadrivalent vaccine because it has the possibility to prevent four different types of HPV: 6, 11, 16, and 18. The Cervarix vaccine is called a bivalent vaccine because it has the possibility to prevent 2 different types of HPV: 16 and 18. The National Cancer Institute technologically developed both these vaccinations. They then licensed GlaxoSmithKline and Merck to sell each of the vaccinations. Of course, as we have learned many times, there is chance in everything. These vaccinations do not provide 100% guarantee to prevent HPV cancers; just as condoms can't provide 100% protection from STD's.

Besides the thought of your child being sexually active if she/he is receiving these vaccinations, parents might have other reason to worry. ABC News said the vaccine has been linked to 32 unconfirmed deaths and higher incidences of blood clotting and fainting. The concept to think about: whether the potential benefit of the HPV vaccine is worth its potential risks, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association.  I like the way they have phrased this. Some do claim that there is not enough evidence to suggest whether the HPV vaccines are more beneficial than they are harmful. Since the vaccine is fairly new, scientists and doctors are having trouble putting an official conclusion on these vaccinations. This is somewhat worrisome to me...I do not like to think of myself as one of the people who first tried this vaccine.

Of course there are side effects for both vaccines, as there are with almost all treatments and medicines. Upon doing some reading, I found a very interesting correlation. I read that a side effect of getting these vaccinations is fainting, which could technically happen with any medical procedure. This past year, I fainted twice. Boys, try not to get uncomfortable, but due to menstruation, you are here today. Anyway, both times I fainted happened to be on the first days of my period. I think I finished receiving these vaccinations last year...months before I fainted. I am wondering though; could these vaccinations have any correlation to me fainting? Of course circumstances are everything, which is what I linked my fainting to at first. But is it possible that I fainted because of long over-do side effects of the vaccination? Could it having been the first day of my menstruation have something to do with the vaccinations? I wonder...

Whether or not to get these vaccinations is really a personal choice; one you should think about based on your life choices, but also one that you should consult with your parents and even multiple doctors. It never hurts to get a second or third or fourth perspective!



Paulina, my parents were also skeptical of me getting the vaccine, and did not allow it for a few years. My mom kept saying it was too new. However, once I was 18 I decided to get it. I immediately thought about this choice in science this year when Andrew explained that many health problems can take years to be noticed- such as lung cancer from smoking, or potentially tumors from corn. Of course I hope that we all wont die some tragic disease-ridden death in 20 years, but I now realize that the vaccine simply is too new to know. It's especially nerve racking when this comes up on google when you search "when did gardasil come out"


In clinical trials, it's reported that gardasil prevented 100% of cervical cancer. However, we cant see the study, or know how many people they tested. I would like to trust the FDA, but they approved harmful things before, so why not again?


I'm so glad someone researched this vaccine! It has been one of those things that I have heard I "should" get, but have been advised by my parents (who are very skeptical of new vaccines) not to. You make a very valid point when you say that it really is our own decision whether or not to get the vaccine and we need to consider the personal costs and benefits of receiving the vaccine. Reading more about this vaccine also got me thinking about its nature: a vaccine designed to prevent cancer in specific areas of the body. Due to cancer's increasing presence in society, it seems very impressive that there is a vaccine designed to actually preventing cancer. I looked into other vaccines for preventing cancer and found that the HPV is actually only one of two vaccines approved by the FDA for preventing cancer: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/cancer-vaccines

I will do a class or two on the HPV vaccine soon. Having taught it now for two years, which means looking into the safety and efficacy data pretty thoroughly, I think there is no question everyone should get it. I had my sons (17, 15 y.o) vaccinated: I do not want my future daughter -in-laws getting cervical cancer - or indeed any of the other HPV-induced cancers. For that matter, I do not want my sons getting any of the male equivalents.

Something like 30-50% of Penn State women students arrive at Penn State already infected with HPV. By the time they leave, 80% will have have been infected....

My parents are also extremely skeptical about this vaccine, especially my mom (who seems to be skeptical over any new type of medicine that comes out). She even showed me this CBS news report about girls who had supposedly undergone paralysis, seizures, and serious sickness after receiving the vaccine. At the time, it really did scare me and I vowed never to get it, however, I have begun to become skeptical of news reports and websites such as these that claim the vaccine is dangerous, especially after taking this class. Are they just news media outlets trying to get ratings off of exaggerated stories, or is there some truth behind the claims? I have found several blogs and websites claiming that the vaccine has terrible side effects, but no actual studies that show that these side effects are related to the vaccine. I guess it is just too early to know, and I certainly don't want cervical cancer, but the very slim chance that the vaccine could cause harm is also a little scary. I'm interested in what our class on the HPV vaccine will be like.

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