BETHESDA, Md. – Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. It can lead to cervical and anal cancer — which, combined, account for more than 250,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Furthermore, HPV also causes genital warts, which affects 360,000 people annually in the United States alone.
Fortunately, said Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Christopher Bunt, director of the University Family Health Center at the Defense Department’s Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences here, the fight to end HPV-related disease gained an important ally with the development of the first anti-cancer vaccine in 2006.
Moreover, he said, the HPV vaccine — originally administered exclusively to females — is now available and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for males ages 9 through 26 as well.
“Although cervical cancer is a woman’s health issue, men carry and spread the HPV-virus, too, Bunt said. “Furthermore, they are not immune from contracting genital warts or anal cancer. Fortunately, the vaccine the DoD uses is an effective safeguard against several types of HPV.”
Despite physician recommendations and a growing body of research championing the health benefits of immunization, Bunt said, many parents are reticent about HPV vaccination for their children.
“I recommend HPV vaccination to all my young patients, but have received pushback from some parents who are concerned about creating the impression they’re condoning sexual activity,” he added. “My response is to discuss all of the positive and potentially life-saving benefits of HPV vaccination. As a physician and a father, I view the vaccine as an important medical breakthrough. In fact, both my son and daughter will receive it once they’re old enough.”
August is Immunization Awareness Month. The Military Vaccine Agency’s website offers more information about immunizations, as does the Vaccines.gov website, which serves as the federal gateway to information on vaccines and immunization.