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The HPV Vaccine: A Rare Victory

by Willo RadgensPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

Hooray! A victory! Sorry for all the excitement, but when you are an advocate in the reproductive health and rights field, victory is all too rare. This one comes in the form of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that causes genital warts and can ultimately cause cervical cancer in some women. The vaccine that will protect against the four types of HPV that account for 70% of cervical cancer and 90% of warts was approved and licensed by the FDA in June 2006.

So what does this mean to women across the globe? Well, right here in the United States it means that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (try saying that three times fast), is recommending that it be given to all girls 11-12 years old (although it can be given as young as 9). The aim of doing it that young is to get girls immunized before they become sexually active. It is also recommended that women 13-26 years old receive the complete immunization series (3 shots) if they havenít yet.

All of these recommendations are now being considered officially by the Center for Disease Control. This vaccine could also mean incredible things in the rest of the world, particularly in developing countries. While every country has its own laws and guidelines for approving and administering vaccinations, the HPV vaccine will certainly
be most beneficial to those that can receive it. This is an excellent chance to stop the infection of women and the spread of a potentially deadly disease. So, if you are 9-26, you should look into getting the vaccine.

However, it is very important to point out that if a woman is already sexually active, the vaccine may be less effective for her, depending on whether she already has a form of HPV. This is reason 32,589,709 for everyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Steer clear of the vaccination if you are pregnant or male, for now. I know, I  know, why do women have to carry all of the burden? Donít worry ladies, hopefully it wonít be that way for long. Studies are currently being done on boys and men to test the vaccine on them as well. If you are lucky enough to have insurance and lucky enough to have your insurance cover the vaccine, congratulations, you are one of the few.

Very few insurance companies are currently covering the vaccine, but that should change as it becomes more used, recommended, available, and required. The cost of the vaccine is $120 per dose, so $360 for the entire series. I know this is A LOT of money to a lot of people, but this is your health we are talking about, and it could cost a lot more later on if a more serious medical condition arises. There are also places like the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program that will cover the cost of vaccine. The VFC will provide the vaccine for those under 19 who are uninsured, Medicaid eligible, American Indian, or Alaska native.

Hopefully the vaccine will also soon be available at clin- ics that can offer it on a sliding scale fee. Even though the vaccine is extremely effective, nothing  except abstinence is 100% effective. So if you are sexually active or over the age of 16, you should still get annual exams and PAP smears, the best detection of cervical cancer and other sexual health problems. Also remember that you should always use protection during sexual activity. Whew! So thatís a lot of information huh? Sorry to overwhelm you, but this is a huge deal, and I wanted you to have all the facts. Just remember this is a big victory for womenís health, and for that we can be happy and healthy!!!

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