Getting back to the dating scene

08-Feb-2020 08:02

Ten years ago, L – I'm referring to her by her first initial to protect her privacy – brought her then preteen daughter to a pediatrician to get her immunized against HPV.

"I asked the pediatrician whether I should also get the shot because it did not exist when I was a kid," L said.

"She told me I was too old." But recently some of L's 40-something friends have had their first-ever abnormal Papanicolaou (PAP) smear and tested positive for "high-risk" HPV.

They've needed regular visits to the gynecologist for colposcopy (an examination of the cervix using a microscope) with uncomfortable cervical biopsies, an ordeal L wants to avoid. Google, she learned that condoms are not an effective prevention against HPV but noticed that the Food and Drug Administration had expanded the use of Gardasil 9 to include women up to age 45.

To answer L's question, I looked up the guidelines for HPV vaccination put out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical experts that determines which vaccines we should use in the United States.

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(There is a consensus that giving the HPV vaccine to boys will also prevent HPV-related cancers, although males are not the focus of this report.) I also know the vaccine is safe; in the review of the HPV studies, severe adverse events were rare and were not significantly higher in vaccine recipients than in those who received a placebo injection.And what about avoiding costly and uncomfortable colposcopies and biopsies, something that the vaccine did accomplish in younger women – especially those who had never had sex.Well there were slightly fewer of these procedures in the older women who received the vaccine, but not an amount that was statistically significant. "If she is a 40-something-year-old virgin who decides to start dating, the vaccine will be 100 percent effective," Smith-Mc Cune said.She is an HPV researcher and works in the cervical dysplasia clinic taking care of women infected with HPV.

"When you look at these studies, you have to ask: ' Effective for what?

These studies also show that the vaccine reduces the total number of colposcopies, biopsies and other procedures.