A new frontier in cancer prevention
At 9 Harley Street and 25 Harley Street we offer private HPV vaccines in central London to protect young people from the HPV virus which can cause a number of cancers and other heath related problems.
HPV vaccines protect the recipient against infection from human papilloma viruses (HPV). Like the common cold, HPV is actually a collection of similar viruses, rather than a single culprit. Of the 200 that fall under the name of HPV, around 40 are spread through direct sexual contact.
It is important to understand how widespread HPV infection is. Unlike other infections spread through sexual contact, HPV is exceptionally common. In the UK 1 in 3 people carry the virus. Simply by being sexually active you have a 90% chance of coming into contact with the virus at some point in your lifetime.
Fortunately, most HPV infections are harmless to the individual who contracts the virus. Up to 90% of infections are cleared by the body’s immune system within 2 years. Due to the latent (dormant) activity of the virus, the overwhelming majority of people are unaware they have or have had the disease. A study released by John Hopkins University uncovered a surprising fact concerning HPV: around 85% of infections are discovered when the person is currently abstinent or engaged in a monogamous relationship.
There is no implication of promiscuity with HPV infection as single sexual contact brings with it a high chance of infection.
Why is a HPV vaccine necessary?
The Human Papilloma Virus is the main source of cervical, vaginal, vulval, anal and oropharangeal cancers. In the UK this results in 60,000 new cases of cancer and anogenital warts each year. This means every 75 minutes in the UK someone is diagnosed with cancer as a result of HPV.
A universal vaccination program can realistically bring this number down to zero for the next generation and those beyond.
Is my child eligible for the HPV vaccine?
Starting in September 2019, all children aged 12 to 13 will be offered the vaccination by the time they reach Year 8. A second vaccination will be required within 12 months, this ensures proper vaccine effectiveness. This recent development is a welcome ‘upgrade’ as when first introduced a few years ago only girls could receive the vaccine.
If the vaccine is missed for whatever reason, children are still eligible to receive the vaccine up until the age of 25.
Due to the serious nature of complications arising from HPV vaccination, it is clearly important to not delay vaccination until such a late age. At 9 Harley Street we have a number of qualified GPs readily available to provide this crucial service. We strongly recommend that vaccination is carried out prior to a child becoming sexually active, and no later than the age of 13.
There are some minority cases to be aware of that prevent administration of the vaccine. If you child has had an anaphylactic (severe allergic) reaction to a previous dose, repeated dosing should be avoided. Girls and women who are pregnant must wait until after giving birth to receive the vaccine.
Delays in HPV Vaccination
Children who are unwell, i.e. suffering from a flu or cold that is giving them a high temperature, should not be given the vaccine. Good health is required so that if there are signs of anaphylaxis treatment can be sought quickly, rather than signs and symptoms being clouded by pre-existing illness.
Flu-like illness is hard to avoid, so if your child misses their appointment because of this please get in contact at the earliest opportunity. Risk of infection increases significantly with each year that passes and children 15 years and up require 3 doses to ensure full protection.
But my child isn’t sexually active!
Parental reassurance that their child is not sexually active is not a satisfactory reason to delay HPV vaccination. Not only does this damage the herd immunity for others, it also puts your child at serious risk of developing potentially lethal cancers later in life.
Sexual activity of course does not solely point to sexual intercourse. HPV is spread through skin to skin contact, this includes hands, fingers, mouth, genitals and anus. The infection can spread therefore simply through touching.
How effective are HPV vaccines?
As vaccines prevent infection and therefore spread of a virus, they offer herd immunity to the population. Initially introduced in 2009 for young women, there has been an 85% reduction in HPV infection, specifically of the virus variant that causes 80% of all cervical cancers.
Public Health England have released 8 year data from 2009 onwards, showing a 90% decline in genital warts for girls aged 15-17 and by herd immunity, a 70% increase in boys of the same age.
While this is exceptionally encouraging news, the program has now been expanded to boys to quickly increase this percentage to as close to 100% as possible. In fact the BBC reports that by 2060 over 29,000 will be prevented in boys and men alone. In this time frame it is expected that 85,000 cancers will be prevented in women, of which 64,000 will be cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer screening
While it has been a decade since the introduction of the vaccine for girls and women, this is a very short time period in terms of public health interventions. Cervical cancer remains the most common cancer in women under the age of 35, and is terminal in 850 women a year who have not been vaccinated.
That being said, while the HPV vaccine helps prevent the majority of potential cancers there is not enough evidence to show that all infections are prevented.
In the UK cervical cancer screening prevents around 2,000 cervical cancer deaths each year. Girls and women are strongly encouraged to attend cervical cancer screening when invited, even if they have received full vaccination.
Adherence to both vaccination and screening will greatly reduce a woman’s chance of developing or dying from cervical cancer.
Private HPV Vaccine London
Our HPV specialist GPs in London are well equipped to deal with what can be a sensitive issue for parents and their children. Although directly related to sexual activity, due to the widespread nature of HPV, vaccination should be seen as a part of routine healthcare for those residing in the UK.
We can provide initial and follow up dosing for children entering their teens and secondary school. For those boys and girls who have missed their vaccination, or those who are older and were ‘missed’ by the new legislation can have a ‘catch up vaccination’. Depending on the exact age of the person, more than two visits may be required.
Call us today on 020 7079 2100 and protect your child with an HPV vaccination.