A pediatrician and a gynecologist is asking parents to stop looking at the HPV vaccine as something only women of a certain age and lifestyle will need.
Dr. May Montellano, president of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination and a pediatric infectious disease specialist, says parents should consider it like any routinely recommended vaccine. "We don't wait until exposure to occur to give the other vaccines. We should do same with HPV vaccine. We want to protect our children long before they are even at risk of exposure to HPV."
Dr. Cecilia Ladines-Llave, a gynecologic oncologist at the Philippine General Hospital and chair of Asian Gynecology and Oncology Group, agrees, pointing out that HPV, which has more than 100 types, is known as the silent disease because it often has no signs and symptoms until it has progressed and reached an advanced stage.
"Most women develop cervical cancer later in life, between 35 and 55 years old, but many acquire the virus in their youth," explains Dr. Ladines-Llave. More than 6,000 Filipino women are diagnosed of cervical cancer each year, and 2,800 die because of it. That's roughly seven cervical cancer deaths a day. She says it is virus that affects males, too, and it can lead to head, neck, anal, and penile cancers.
Dr. Ladines-Llave and Dr. Montellano, who were guest speakers at the "10 Years of HPV Cancer Prevention" event hosted by healthcare company MSD, emphasize, "HPV vaccine is cancer prevention."
A completed series of the HPV vaccine (commonly two doses for kids and three for adults) does not only protect against HPV-related cancer for life, but from genital warts as well. Dr. Ladines-Llave says chronic and persistent genital warts can develop into cancer in 10 to 30 years’ time.
The vaccine can be administered to children as young as 9 years old. The doctors say it works best at this age because pre-teens have a higher immune response to the vaccine. The vaccine is often administered with the Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccines.
The cost of the HPV vaccine is steep--it starts at P5,000 per dose--but, as the doctors stress, the vaccination protects your children from cancer in the future. (Dr. Dr. Ladines-Llave mentioned that the government has a program in place where it is free in health care centers that covers about 47 provinces and about 200,000 children have been vaccinated against HPV.)
See here for a full list of recommended vaccinations for children from birth to 18 years old.