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CDC Updates HPV Vaccine Recommendations to Prevent Cancer

Update Date: Feb 02, 2016 11:39 AM EST

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated vaccine recommendations for HPV, the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical, and oral and throat cancers.

Under the new guidelines, the CDC is recommending children with a history of sexual abuse to get the first dose of the vaccine at an earlier age of nine or 10. According to research, one in four girls and one in 20 boys will be sexually abused before turning 18. Children who have experienced sexual abuse tend to engage in more risky sexual behaviors, which can increase their chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

"It is an ubiquitous, tragic and unfortunate reality," said Mark Schleiss, director of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, reported by NPR. "Perhaps this language will help remind primary care physicians that they need to be asking their patients about sexual abuse. These perpetrators are usually someone the child knows and trusts and even loved ones, so it's a very delicate issue, but we just have to get past the denial that these things don't happen to young children."

The experts have reassured that the vaccine's effectiveness will not decline over time.

"When we look at how the antibodies have sustained, we anticipate the vaccine will protect out to 30 years or more post-vaccination," Guiliano said. "We have no reason to believe that the protection will wane over time."

The CDC is also recommending the HPV-9 vaccine over the other types of HPV vaccines for boy and girls aged 11 to 12. HPV-9, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, protects against nine strains of the virus, which cover about 80 percent of cervical, anal, and vulvar cancers. The previous vaccines offered a 65 percent protection rate.

Prior to release of the updated guidelines, the CDC had recommended boys and girls to get the vaccine at the ages of 11 or 12. Despite trying to encourage doctors and parents to get children vaccinated, the immunization rates continue to be very low.

"There's definitely more emotion around this vaccine than others," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, vice president of pediatric population health at Advocate Children's Hospital, reported by Chicago Tribune. "I think there's this connotation that (because) it has something to do with sexual activity ... people just can't see their children in that light."

Dr. H. Cody Meissner, a pediatrics professor at Tufts Medical Center, added, "The vaccine continues to be controversial, and it's unfortunate that it's gotten wrapped up in the politics and ethical issues. We've always wanted a vaccine that protects against cancer, and now we've got one and people aren't using it as widely as they should."

The new recommendations were also approved by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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