Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

The Navajo County Public Health Department wishes to announce the availability of the new vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) at the County Health Department Immunization clinics held in Show Low, Holbrook and Winslow. The vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, is recommended for girls beginning at age 11 and up to age 26, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS) new guidelines.

HPV is a very common virus. Some types of HPV are sexually transmitted, and these can cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer, as well as genital warts.

Another common childhood vaccine against sexually transmitted disease is the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is first given at 24 hours of age to all children, and is mandatory for entry into daycare, preschool and school in Arizona.

The vaccine currently available, called Gardasil, protects against 4 types of HPV, including 2 types that cause about 70% of cervical cancers, and 2 other types that cause 90% of genital warts. It is given as a series of 3 shots over the course of 6 months.

The HPV vaccine is covered under the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program. As a result, the vaccine is free for females age 18 and under in the following categories: uninsured, individuals on AHCCCS, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and for those whose insurance does not cover the vaccine.

The complete ACS recommendations address several different groups:

  • Routine HPV vaccination is recommended for girls aged 11 to 12 years.
  • Girls as young as 9 years old may be vaccinated and all young women age 13 to 26 should be vaccinated since this is a new vaccine.
  • The HPV vaccine is not recommended at this time for women over age 26.
  • The HPV vaccine is not recommended at this time for boys or men.
  • Women should continue to be screened for cervical cancer according to ACS guidelines, regardless of whether they have gotten the HPV vaccine.

The new recommendations are in line with those issued by the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP) after the vaccine was approved last summer.

According to health officials, screening will still be an important part of cervical cancer prevention, even in people who have been vaccinated. Cervical cancer screening with the Pap test has greatly reduced the incidence of this cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 11,150 cases of cervical cancer in the U.S. in 2007. About 3,670 women will die from the disease. Giving the vaccine to young girls is important, the new guidelines say, because it works best when given to people before they ever become infected with HPV. Because the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer are sexually transmitted, girls should get vaccinated well before they become sexually active, but females who are sexually active should still be vaccinated.

Surveys of U.S. teens show that nearly a quarter of them have had sex by age 15, and 70% have had sex by age 18. Typically 25% of sexually active teens contract a sexually transmitted disease.