New, consolidated HPV vaccine requires less shots

Lauren Fant
FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007 file photo, Lauren Fant, left, winces as she has her third and final application of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine administered by nurse Stephanie Pearson at a doctor's office in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

HOUSTON – There’s a change when it comes to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for your children. Researchers have consolidated the treatment for younger patients.

Now, instead of three shots, some children only need two.

Dr. Lois Ramondetta, co-Leader for MD Anderson’s HPV-Related Cancers Moon Shots Program, said if you get your child the vaccine before they turn 15 years old and they haven’t started the three-part series yet, they only need two.

One League City mom, Kara Million, is in favor of the vaccine. She was like 80 percent of the population and once tested positive for HPV, but for her, the virus turned serious.

“I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2009,” she said.

She went through radiation and a radical surgery to remove several organs.

“I had wounds that were healing so you really can’t hold your babies and it was just hard,” Million said.

Her kids are older now, almost the age when she will decide whether or not they should get the HPV vaccine. It’s recommended for 11 to 26 year olds but Ramondetta said before 15 is when it’s most effective.

She said the immune system remembers things best when it’s never been exposed to the virus.

“The better off you’re going to be at preventing potentially six different types of cancers: cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, anal — the fastest-growing HPV-related cancer — is that of the oral pharynx,” Ramondetta said.

Now she hopes parents of kids and pre-teens will commit to the vaccine if they only need two shots.

The vaccine is controversial because of potential side effects and because some parents say this obligates them to have “the talk.”

“The longer you wait to give your kids a vaccine the more you’re making it about sex,” Ramondetta said. “If you vaccinate your kid as early as nine or 10 or 11, it’s just another vaccine.”

Million said nothing would stop her from protecting her children from what she went through.

“They don’t need to understand it now. They’re children, but they need to know it’s a vaccine and it’s going to protect them from cancer later on in life,” Million said.

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