Do you really need the HPV vaccine? Here's everything you need to know

The HPV vaccine is really important for our health. HPV, or human papilloma, is a virus that infects skin and mucous membranes, and there are almost 200 different strains, among which only some cause cancer. These are in particular strains 16 and 18: in 70% of cases they are these are responsible for cervical cancer.

The first HPV vaccine, developed in 2006, acted precisely against strains 16 and 18, while the one that is mainly used today, introduced later, is quadrivalent, i.e. it also protects against strains 6 and 11, the main culprits of condyloma acuminati, a benign but highly contagious venereal disease.

Every year in Italy about 1200 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, with 450 cases a year of absolute mortality. The HPV virus causes almost all of these tumors, but is also responsible for 95% of the cases of anus cancer. , 70% of oropharynx cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers, 50% of vulva cancers and 35% of penile cancers. 5% of all cancers in the world are caused by infection with HPV, which fortunately with the culture of prevention, with the use of condoms and a greater knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases, can be suitably reduced.

HPV vaccine: who should do it and at what age

The HPV vaccine is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) to all girls before the start of sexual activity. In fact, during adolescence, it is easier to be infected, even if the slow action of the virus it could lead to the formation of tumors even after decades.

According to statistics, in Italy girls lose their virginity around the age of 13, so the HPV vaccine should be done at 12. If it is postponed, the public vaccination program will no longer be available and will have to be provided in private. It should also be taken into account that giving the HPV vaccine to people who are already sexually active may no longer be very useful, since a very high percentage of women between 19 and 59 years old have already been infected, even if they do not present infections. The age group still considered useful is that which goes from 12 to 26 for women and from 13 to 21 for men.

In fact, it will be good to vaccinate male adolescents as well, since a woman who has had the HPV vaccine will protect her heterosexual sexual partner from contagion, but homosexuals will remain exposed. The extension of the HPV vaccine also to men has led, in addition to the reduction in cases of penis and anus cancer, a net gain for women as well, with a 2-4% reduction in cervical cancer cases. .

Consequently, the HPV vaccination for 11-year-old males was also included, starting from 2017, among the free services provided by the Region.

See also

What is the Papilloma virus? Transmission, vaccine and how to treat HPV

Melatonin: what it is, what it is for and why it is so important

Internal sanitary napkins: how to put them on? They hurt? Risks, contraindications and everything

Does the HPV vaccine really work?

But is the HPV vaccine really effective? It certainly is as far as the prevention of warts is concerned: in Australia, where the vaccine has been proposed for 4 years, the cases of this disease have been reduced by 85%! As for the tumor, however, it will be necessary wait a few decades before having confirmed results, due to the delayed development of this disease.

In ten years of the life of the HPV vaccine there has been a 90% reduction in infections with this virus, as well as a 45% decrease in the occurrence of low-grade cytological abnormalities (precancerous lesions) and 85% of abnormalities of high grade (frankly cancerous forms). Therefore, with good reason, there is good hope in its long-term efficacy.

Is the HPV vaccine risky?

The HPV vaccine is not risky, on the contrary! At the moment it seems to be one of the safest. In most cases it can involve only small, rather mild local disturbances or, at most, a little fever.

To ensure its safety, two major reviews were conducted: the first, carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, which revealed only cases of unconscious fainting and a slight increase in cases of venous thrombosis. , but in women already considered at risk; the second, carried out in Denmark and Sweden, showed no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated women.

In addition, a study was carried out by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) regarding the possible link between the HPV vaccine and the onset of chronic pain in the limbs and a syndrome with postural tachycardia: no demonstrable link was found .

Does the HPV vaccine replace the Pap smear? How long does the immunization last?

Even if you have had the HPV vaccine, it is essential to keep getting the Pap smear. The vaccine, in fact, prevents 70% of cervical cancer cases, but not all of it! For this reason, the Pap test remains a "fundamental preventive analysis for making an early diagnosis.

The spread of the HPV vaccine should lead, according to forecasts, to a sharp decline in the formation of precancerous lesions (those detected by the Pap test) and it is not to be excluded that, in the future, being vaccinated then entails the possibility of extending the time between one Pap test and the next.

Both the Pap test and the HPV test, on the other hand, are essential to prevent the onset of more serious problems or to prevent infections from affecting fertility, as our doctor suggests:

The HPV vaccine guarantees an immunization that lasts between 10 and 20 years (on the other hand, it is a vaccine that has only 10 years of life on the market and about twenty experimental observations!). Further studies are underway to ascertain duration over longer periods.

If the immunization fails to cover a certain number of years, we will proceed with vaccination boosters, as happens for many other diseases.

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