By Oscar Mendoza ’19
Imagine a virus so deadly that it can cause multiple types of cancers, yet some of its symptoms may not be noticeable for months or even years after first getting infected. This virus is called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and 75-89% of all Americans will be infected with HPV at one point of their lives.
HPV can cause many types of cancers for both males and females such as vaginal cancer for females and penile cancer for males. The vaccine for this virus helps protect against the above-mentioned cancers as well as many other types of cancers such as: cervical, anal, mouth, and throat cancer. However, the vaccine doesn’t just protect against cancer, it also protects against other conditions, like genital warts.
“One other thing to remember, the vaccine only protects again nine strains of the virus and there are at least 15 that can lead to cancer, but there is some evidence that developing immunity to the nine strains can give you some protection against all of them,” said Doctor Marilyn Milkman.
The HPV vaccine is a vaccine that all NYC public high school students are required to have, but does any student actually know why? The only way the HPV virus can spread is by sexual contact, and since most high school students are between the ages of 15-18, the virus can easily spread, thus making the vaccine extremely important.
“Students should be vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12,” said Judy Aqii, Midwood’s school nurse.
This is the recommended time since it is most likely the time before most students become sexually active. Although this is the recommended time to get vaccinated, females can be vaccinated through the age of 26 and males through the age of 21.
The HPV vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots for people ages 15-26. The second shot is given two months after and the final shot is given 4 months after. The vaccine does come with some side effects such as pain in the injected area, redness or swelling and in some cases fainting, but all these side effects are worth dealing with because of the severity of the HPV virus and the harm it can cause not only to a person, but to anyone who loves and cares for a person with HPV.
One would assume that if the HPV vaccine is so beneficial for a student, that all parents would be on board and would want their children to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, yet there is some controversy surrounding the vaccine. According to the New York Times, some parents believe it promotes an active sexual life for young teens, even though there is no correlation between receiving the vaccine and one’s sexual activity. There is also the belief that it is not needed for young teens since they are most likely not sexually active, but it is proven best if the vaccine is given at a young age because of the strength of one’s immune system at a young age and the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus. Plus there has been no research or solid evidence proving that the HPV vaccine hurts or causes any damage to a student, but the opposite, that the vaccine is extremely beneficial.
If a student has yet to receive the vaccine, it can be obtained at Planned Parenthood centers, medical centers, clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies. There is a cost of $240 for the vaccine, but if you have health insurance it will cover it. Even if you don’t, it can be obtained for little to no cost. Places like Planned Parenthood, local college or university medical centers or programs such as Merck Vaccine Patient Program have opportunities in which the HPV vaccine can be received for free.
There is no need for parental permission for any student, so your parent does not need to sign off for you to receive the vaccine. If you are worried or concerned about having HPV, see your doctor or talk to your parents and ask if you have received the vaccine or need to take actions to receive the vaccine. You can also call the National HPV and the Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center American Sexual Health Association at 1-800-783-9877 for more information and help.