The vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Vasileios Karountzos, Efthimios Deligeoroglou, Artemis Tsitsika
Puberty is a transient stage from childhood to adulthood. In order to become a healthy adult, it is important you shield your health by completing a cycle of vaccines during childhood and adulthood to protect against the most common diseases and viruses that can infect your body.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is a virus that is usually spread through intimate, skin to skin contact during sex and from which one can be very easily be infected in the future. There are more than 200 different types of this virus. Some of them can cause genital warts, both in male and female genitals.
This particular virus is the most commonly sexually transmitted virus worldwide and it is estimated that 80% of the individuals that have sexual contacts are very likely to be infected by the age of 50. 99% of women with cervical cancer have at least one of these types of HPV in the cells of their cervix. This however doesn’t necessarily mean they will all develop cervical cancer.
Genital HPV is usually spread through sexual intercourse, without the use of condoms. Such infections can also be transmitted non sexually, as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth. There are also other ways to get infected, still under research.
Most girls are infected by the virus during the early stages of their sexual life, since they are more vulnerable than elder women.
Vaccines are now available to prevent infection with the Human Papilloma Virus. Application of these vaccines which contain proteins of the virus that create special antibodies in your body, has begun since 2002. There already exist two vaccines: one that protects from both types of virus (16, 18), which are responsible for 70% of the cases of cervical cancer, and the one that protects from the four types of virus (6,11,16,18) and thus provides extra protection for 90% of the types of Human Papilloma Virus. The vaccine is completed in 3 dose series within a 6 month period and in particular, the National Vaccination Program states that for a girl at the age of 12-15 years old, the vaccination is offered free of charge by the state, while if you are a girl of 16 years old or older, it is recommended to get vaccinated immediately, even if you hadn’t been vaccinated younger.
Finally, although boys do not need the vaccine in the first place, it is highly recommended to get it, as vaccination has already begun in many foreign countries. Soon, a new vaccine will go in mass production, that will prevent infection from more types of HPV.
Therefore, it is important to address your physician, and get the suitable HPV vaccine for your age and discuss further details.Vassilios Karountzos
Resident physician in Obstetrics and Gynaecology,PhD candidate at the Medical School of Athens University, Scientific Associate of the Greek Society of Adolescent Medicine
Professor of Obstetrics - Gynecology, at the Medical School of Athens University, Scientific Associate of the Greek Society of Adolescent Medicine
Ass. Professor of Pediatrics - Adolescent Medicine
Scientific Coordinator of the Program "PROLEPSIS» ran by the Greek Society of Adolescent Medicine