The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a family name given to a family of viruses which are known to affect the skin and mucus membranes of the body such as on the cervix, anus (Hales, 2009). There are many different types of the Human Papilloma virus that are responsible for the causation of changes to the body cells which can lead to cancer. In addition, the HPV is known for the causation of various infections such as genital warts (Monsonego, 2006). It is reported that more than thirty types of HPV are transmitted through sexual intercourse.
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Importance of the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine is used to prevent infections resulting from several serotypes of the human papilloma virus (Monsonego, 2006). Some types of cancers and infections such as genital warts have been linked to these serotypes of the HPV. It is recommended that women and girls should receive the vaccine to prevent them from contracting genital warts and cervical cancer. “High risk” HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in women (Monsonego, 2006). Therefore giving the vaccine ensures that these women do not contract the disease. Interestingly almost all women contract HPV infections during some stage in life however the body’s immune system has managed to suppress these infections in the most of them. Therefore these women do not develop cervical cancer. Only persistent HPV infections are responsible for cervical cancer in women. 70 percent of cervical cancers are cause by the High risk HPV type 16 and 18. It should be noted that HPV infections are as common in men as they are in women. However, much attention has not been given to vaccinating males against the HPV. This is because men are not at risk of contracting cervical cancer. However HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and controlling it requires the subsequent vaccination of men. It should also be noted that men are also liable to developing diseases such as genital herpes.
The HPV vaccine is prophylactic and therefore it cannot cure existing infections. The vaccine is of two types ie cevarix and Gardasil. These vaccines generally target the high risk viruses that are responsible for the causation of cervical virus and genital herpes.
Gardasil is a tetravalent vaccine and is able to protect against most of the “high risk” HPV types which are responsible for the causation of cervical cancer and genital warts (Cummins, J and Ho, 2009). Cervarix is a bivalent vaccine which is able to protect against HPV types 16 and 18 (Cummins, J and Ho, 2009).
Controversy relating to the HPV vaccine
In 2007 the HPV vaccination program in the US was found to be faulty after the HPV vaccine was detected in only 3.4 percent of females (Cummins, J and Ho, 2009). During the same period the prevalence of HPV infection in women aged between 14 to 59 years was found to be 23.3 % (Cummins, J and Ho, 2009). This as expected raised concerns regarding the efficacy of the HPV vaccination programs. More research into this discovery revealed that there were at least 15 oncogenic HPV (capable of causing cancer) whereas the HPV vaccines used targeted just a few types of the virus which was not sufficient enough (Cummins, J and Ho, 2009). Therefore even after receiving the vaccination women are still expected to continue with cervical cancer screening. In addition to this the HPV immunizations is not life-long and the duration of immunity is unknown.
The American cancer society does not recommend the universal immunization of women aged between 18 to 26 years on the ground that the vaccine efficacy is bound to decrease with the increase in the level of sexual partners among these women. However the CDC recommends HPV vaccination for all girls before they turn 13 whereas some of the states consider it as a mandatory immunization (Hales, 2009). Women who have already received the HPV vaccine need to practice safe sex because they are not guaranteed immunity from HPV. In addition to this there are other STIs that could be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Most HPV infections in men are asymptomatic and therefore they can increase their partners vulnerability to contacting HPV. There are challenges in carrying out HPV vaccination because most people do not know the role of HPV in contracting cervical cancer (Hales, 2009) . Parents are not conformable with vaccinating their young daughters against any sexually transmitted disease.
HPV infections are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancer cases therefore it is necessary to look for avenues to curb these infections. The use of a vaccine against hpv is necessary because it reduces the prevalence of HPV in the population. However this vaccine is not very reliable because it does not eliminate the chance of contracting the virus. In addition to this the vaccine does not cure those with the disease. The use of a vaccine will most likely give a false sense of security whereas this is not the case because even after receiving the vaccine one can contract the virus. Women who take the HPV vaccine should practice safe sex and take pap smears to verify their health. This is the only way these women can avoid the HPV virus.