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CDC Endorses New Cancer-Preventing Vaccination for Kids

CDC Endorses New Cancer-Preventing Vaccination for Kids
April 24
09:20 2016

The CDC released an updated childhood immunization schedule this week that includes an HPV-9 vaccine capable of preventing multiple types of cancer. “To immunize an entire population would be expensive and maybe overkill, but it’s a safe vaccine and it’s really effective, so we want parents and pediatricians who want it to have it,” explains Seattle pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson.

The CDC has officially endorsed the new HPV-9 vaccine as the best HPV vaccine out there. 

The new schedule recommends earlier HPV vaccination for children with a history of sexual abuse and offers older teenagers the choice of a meningitis vaccine that had previous been recommended only for high-risk individuals.

The HPV-9 vaccine prevents nine different strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), an infection that can lead to several types of cancers including throat, cervical, and mouth.

HPV is typically transmitted through sexual contact – but not always. The truth is, “more than 80% of the population will be infected at least once in their lifetime,” says Pediatrics Professor Cody Meissner of Tufts University School of Medicine. Meissner played an important role in the creation of the new vaccination schedule.

The CDC recommends the vaccination for any 9- or 10-year-old who has been sexually abused. Studies show that 1 in 20 boys and a shocking 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

“It is an ubiquitous, tragic, and unfortunate reality,” says Mark Schleiss.

Schleiss works at the University of Minnesota as the director of pediatric infectious diseases. Questions designed to encourage children to admit sexual abuse are already incorporated into well-child visits, he adds.

Schleiss makes the point that primary care physicians need to be asking 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.”

Young victims of sexual abuse are at a higher risk of STIs for many reasons:

• They may be infected during the initial assault
• They may be infected during ongoing abuse
• They tend to initiate sexual behavior earlier than other kids
• They tend to have more sexual partners throughout their lifetimes

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, one third of child victims are younger than 9. However, 9 is the youngest age the vaccine is licensed for.

Anna Guiliano, an HPV researcher at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida explains: “They’re going as young as the license will allow them to go. Otherwise they’re going off label, and ACIP will not allow them to go off label.” The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is the organization responsible for making vaccine recommendations within the CDC.

Guiliano is excited about the HPV vaccine’s potential. Clinical trials show that after 10 years, the vaccine remains effective. “When we look at how the antibodies have sustained, we anticipate the vaccine will protect out to 30 years or more post-vaccination,” she says. “We have no reason to believe that the protection will wane over time.”

Swanson stresses the fact that the immune system responds best in children ages 9-15. “Every vaccine in the schedule is designed around giving it as early as it can be used so it can protect as long as possible,” she said. “You don’t get any less side effects by waiting for the vaccine, so it makes no sense to wait until they’re older.”

Even so, only about 50% of children in the aforementioned age category received an HPV vaccine in 2014. Part of this results from doctors’ hesitancy. “We need to help providers to make a strong cancer prevention recommendation for vaccinating 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls with the HPV vaccine,” says Guiliano. “If all the pediatricians and family practice doctors were making that strong recommendation, I think we would see a strong increase in the rate of uptake in that vaccine.”

The new vaccination schedule also recommends a vaccine that protects against serotype B of meningococcal disease, which leads to the often-fatal meningitis infection. The CDC encourages all children aged 10 with poorly functioning immune systems or increased risk of catching the illness be given the vaccine.

“ACIP and CDC are saying, it should be funded, it’s safe to give, it’s effective in preventing in the short-term infections that are caused by meningitis B, but we’re leaving this decision up to the pediatrician and the parents to discuss,” says Swanson. “We don’t see significant life-threatening side effects from this vaccine, but the risk of your child getting meningitis serotype B is also really low.”

Meningitis is rare, but according to the CDC, routine meningitis B vaccinations would prevent about 5 deaths per year.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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