Friday, May 24, 2013
What Age Is Too Young For STD Prevention?
Girls as young as 11 years old are encouraged to receive a vaccine that prevents HPV. Some parents are concerned that middle school-aged children are too young, but state health officials disagree.
Protect your daughters—that's the message from Alaska health officials to parents.
Health officials say it is crucial to stop the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease more commonly known as HPV, which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
But the problem for some is the age at which girls are recommended to receive this vaccine—around age 11, before girls become sexually active. If the vaccine is admitted before this time, the vaccine “can prevent almost 100 percent of cervical cancer,” according to Dr. Matt Hirschfeld, a pediatrician with Southcentral Foundation.
“We have the opportunity to prevent a whole generation of youth from getting cervical cancer,” said Gerri Yett, immunization program manager for the State of Alaska.
And according to Alaska's health professionals, HPV prevention starts with the vaccine, which involves three shots administered over the course of six months.
“Essentially you can't get cervical cancer without getting HPV first,” said Hirschfeld.
And even though most parents don't want to imagine their daughters engaging in sex at such a young age, health officials say that early vaccination ensures they can be protected.
“It may be many, many years before some girls become sexually active,” said Yett, “but as we know we are all individuals and so there is no set age where you are going to expect that and this is the opportunity to get young girls long before that.”
And the topic of just what age is too young for this kind of vaccination was a hot topic amongst Alaska residents on the KTVA Channel 11 News Facebook page.
Stacy Byas said: “Children can be assaulted at any age and 11 is certainly not too early.”
Leanna Matthews wrote: “So should this girl be put on birth control too in case she is raped?"
Lynn Witte posted: “It’s about protection for her family saying if she gets the vaccine before she is sexually active, obviously at that point she's not been exposed to it. I know I plan to have my daughter to get the vaccine and it's not about money, it's about helping to save lives.”
Yett called the vaccine a “good investment” for parents.
Doctors say the chances of halting cervical cancer is only 50 percent if administered after an individual engages in sex.
Places like Southcentral Foundation and the state offer the vaccine free to the uninsured, those on Medicaid and children who qualify as Alaska Native or Indian.
It is also available at private clinics, but it can be expensive ranging from $150 to $200 per dose.
Men can get HPV, too, which can cause throat, penile, and anal cancer. Ask your physician about being tested, as symptoms may not be apparent.