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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tamara Dickson

Hope for the HPV vaccine: will expanding vaccination age help?

I have problems with the HPV vaccine at the same time that I appreciate its necessity. It doesn't protect against all high-risk, cancer-related types of the virus, while it does offer protection from the 2 types most commonly associated with cancer. Any cancer risk reduction is desirable, right? However, the existence of long-term side effects of the vaccine is hotly debated worldwide- raising questions about adverse event reporting and data collection, differing diagnostic criteria for the side-effects in question, and confirmation bias in the design of studies intending to analyze side-effects, with discussion of events in Ireland, Japan, and Denmark making the most headlines.

It has always angered me that the most recent vaccine criteria has left middle-aged people at risk for infection, when it's likely to do the most damage, while offering vaccination protection only to adolescents before (presumably) they are sexually active. This VOX article does a great job of outlining the main concerns about infection and vaccine availability.

I am happy to hear that CDC and FDA are considering HPV vaccination for older individuals since every patient that has come to me with a high-risk HPV infection, or whom I diagnosed with one, is a young or middle-aged adult.

That being said, some of them did complete and HPV vaccine series when they were younger and simply caught a strain that the vaccine doesn't cover. Some of them weren't sure if they were new infections or a reappearance of an infection that was previously diagnosed but never treated (watch and wait guidelines were common for certain age ranges). In my opinion, an integrative medicinal approach is the most comprehensive for HPV treatment and as many of you know, strengthening the immune system and helping eradicate the virus has been a passion of mine for almost a decade. This is becoming even more important as HPV is found to be associated with more and more different types of cancer as years go by.


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