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August
2016
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America/Phoenix

Immunization = Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know about the HPV Vaccine

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Immunization = Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know about the HPV Vaccine

The BCBSAZ Member Survey: How You Help Us Help You

 

 

August is Immunization Awareness Month, a time set aside each year to focus on the importance of proactive immunizations to prevent diseases.

Did you know that approximately one in four Americans are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV)? The HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent many types of cancer that are caused by different types of the HPV, but unfortunately the current HPV vaccination rates across the nation leave many unprotected. This is especially true for Arizonans.

The Healthy People 2020 goal for girls and boys by age 13-15 is a HPV vaccination rate of 80 percent.1 According to the latest Centers for Disease (CDC) data, the current HPV vaccination rate in Arizona is far below that goal – 35.8 percent for girls and 16.7 percent for boys.2 With this disparity in mind, below are important Frequently Asked Questions about the HPV vaccine prepared by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) to help guide you and your family when making important decisions about the HPV vaccination.3

What is HPV?
HPV is short for human papillomavirus. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect males and females. There are, however, vaccines that can prevent infection from the most common types of HPV.

How do people get HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

Why is HPV vaccine needed?
HPV vaccine is needed because it helps prevent cancer. About 79 million Americans are infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV. Although most HPV infections will go away on their own, some HPV infections can lead to cancer. HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and can protect people from infection with the types of HPV that can cause certain cancers.

How common is HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most people never know that they have been infected and may give HPV to a partner without knowing it. About 14 million people become newly infected each year.

If HPV infection is so common, is it really that bad?
Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will persist and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infections can cause:

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancers of the penis in men;
  • and cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in women and men.

How many people get cancer from HPV?
Every year approximately 17,600 women and 9,300 men are affected by cancers caused by HPV.

Who should get HPV vaccine?
All girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old should get the recommended series of HPV vaccine. Teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger should get it now. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21.

Why is the vaccine recommended at age 11 or 12?
For HPV vaccines to be effective, they should be given prior to exposure to HPV. It is important not to wait until a teen is having sex to offer HPV vaccination. Preteens should receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine series before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV.

Should boys get HPV vaccine too?
HPV vaccination protects boys against HPV infections than can cause cancers of the back of the throat, penis, and anus. HPV vaccination also prevents genital warts. When boys are vaccinated, they are less likely to spread HPV to their current and future partners.

How well does HPV vaccine work?
HPV vaccination works extremely well. Since vaccination was first recommended in 2006, there has been a 64% reduction in vaccine type HPV infections among teen girls in the U.S., even with low HPV vaccination rates.

How do we know that the HPV vaccine is safe?
The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Years of testing are required by law to ensure the safety of vaccines before they are made available for use in the United States.

What are some possible side effects of HPV vaccination?
Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot. The most common side effects are usually mild. Common side effects of HPV vaccine include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

Will the vaccine cause fertility issues?
No.

Where can I learn more about the HPV vaccination?
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is an active supporter of the Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI), a non-profit statewide coalition of over 400 members. To learn more about the HPV vaccine efforts in Arizona, visit TAPI at whyimmunize.org.

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Sources:
1. HPV Vaccine Coverage Maps – Infographic; http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/infographics/vacc-coverage.html
2. National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2014, Weekly July 31, 2015 / 64(29);784-792; http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6429a3.htm#fig2
3. The National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) 2016 toolkit materials; https://www.nphic.org/niam
 
Summary

Did you know that approximately one in four Americans are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV)? The HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent many types of cancer that are caused by different types of the HPV, but unfortunately the current HPV vaccination rates across the nation leave many unprotected. This is especially true for Arizonans.

Disclaimer

© Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona | An Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
 

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual’s particular health plan.