HPV vaccination

Buying school supplies is one way that students are getting ready for school. Many are also getting physicals that may include the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine, which is an option for students as they get their other vaccinations.

It’s a virus that approximately 4 out of 5 Americans get during their lifetime. There are many strands of the virus. Some cause genital warts, but the worst strand is causes cancer – the most serious being cervical cancer.

The vaccine reduces the chance of getting HPV, according to Carissa Elkins, M.D. at Regional Health Rapid City Hospital. And although it may be a conversation that comes earlier than expected for parents, the vaccine is about future prevention.

The fact is that 80 million Americans currently have the virus and 80 percent of Americans will get it.

It is much easier to prevent the virus than live with it. And only some people’s immune system can fight off the strain with cancer.

Doctors recommend getting the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Girls can get it as early as 9 and as late as 26. Boys can get the shot until they’re 21.

The longer you wait, the more at risk you are of getting exposed. It is more common in girls, but boys do carry the virus.

With any vaccine, there is a chance of side effects, with irritation at the shot site the most common. Regular checkups are recommended to stay on top of any health concerns.

Elkins says “you typically don’t know when you have it, especially the type that can cause cancer. Nobody presents with that until it’s too late usually, unless you are keeping up with your screenings and getting tested. It’s pretty common. A lot of males don’t know that they have it and can pass it on to partners.”

It is preferable to receive the vaccine before beginning sexual activity. However, vaccination is still recommended (depending on age) for those who are already sexually active.

HPV can be monitored and maintained, but if it causes cancer, it will take more aggressive therapy. The vaccine is typically three shots over an eight-month period.

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