Parenting tips: Millennial parent’s guide to HPV vaccine and sex education

Updated on Nov 17, 2022 08:19 AM IST

India, unfortunately, reports leading numbers of cervical cancer every year globally. One way of reducing these numbers is prevention - and that’s where the HPV vaccine comes in. Here are some parenting tips for millennial parents on HPV vaccine and sex education

Parenting tips: Millennial parent’s guide to HPV vaccine and sex education (cottonbro studio)
Parenting tips: Millennial parent’s guide to HPV vaccine and sex education (cottonbro studio)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

As millennials, now traversing the paths that our parents had some 30-odd years ago, it’s paramount to recognize that we’re in a different era where the problem now is not how to find information, it is how to vet the information you find; or more importantly, that your kids find. Parents of today need to take on the role of check points and for this role to be successful, the atmosphere at home needs to foster honest and open conversations including those regarding HPV vaccine and sex education.

It is to be noted that most sexually active people would’ve encountered Human Papilloma Virus at least once where the majority are lucky and this encounter ends with a spontaneous resolution but in a few cases however, it can stick around and progress to cervical cancer. India, unfortunately, reports leading numbers of cervical cancer every year globally.

Talking about how prevention with the HPV vaccine is one way to reduce these numbers, Dr Ooha Susmita, MBBS, MD Psychiatry at Allo Health, shared in an interview with HT Lifestyle, “The best time to give this vaccine is before the debut of sexual activity as it can only prevent infection, not treat it. The Indian advisory is for 2 doses 6 months apart starting at the age of 9-14 years. If given later, then 3 doses at 0, 1, 6 months for Cervarix and 0, 2, 6 months for Gardasil are recommended. The preventive efficacy of this vaccine is 83-98% and it decreases with exposure to this sexually transmitted virus. Therefore, I’ll reiterate - earlier the vaccination, better the prevention.”

She advised, “In this digital era, timelines have changed. Exposure to concepts of sex and intimacy happens way earlier than can be planned. So, let’s not avoid this conversation any longer. Talk to your children, talk to each other and talk to your doctor. In these conversations lies the way ahead. Talk to your children about what you see on TV, what their friends are discussing and about the expectations for young boys and girls in the arena of romance and intimacy. Empower them to set boundaries and let them know that they can come to you for help, regardless of the situation, judgement-free. Us doctors, can be your allies in this process. So, talk to us too.”

Dr Vinieta Diwakar, Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Manipal Hospital in Ghaziabad, revealed, “Carcinoma cervix is the leading cause of death in women with one death recorded every 8 seconds. Carcinoma can be prevented by regular surveillance and a simple test PAP Smear. Human papillomavirus is scientifically proven to be the cause of the disease. Vaccines for the disease are present against the virus. We can easily prevent, early detect, diagnose and treat carcinoma to lead to 100% recovery.”

Talking about the importance of vaccines against Human papillomavirus (HPV vaccine), she said, “HPV is a very big family of more than 300 strains out of which 8 strains are high risk. Vaccines are available for nine strains, four strains, and two strains. In India, we have Tetravalent and Bivalent. Ideally, the vaccine is to be given before the girl has any sexual experience. After sexual interaction, HPV will reside in the female genitalia inside the cervix and vagina.”

She highlighted, “As per WHO recommendation, this vaccine is to be given to girls from 9 to 15 years of age. If given in that age frame, two doses are to be given of tetravalent vaccine injection Gardasil is given intramuscularly in the upper deltoid of the upper arm at zero level and then after four months. If the vaccine is given after 15 years of age, the age frame is 15- 25 years. Three vaccines are to be given for this age group in 014 or 026 sequences. In this case, the woman already has had exposure to sexual interactions leading to a decrease in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

The health expert cautioned, “The vaccine is not recommended for above age groups like 25- 45 years of age, but if the vaccine is to be given the individual must be informed about the low efficacy of the injection. HPV not only prevents carcinoma but also helps in preventing genital warts, anal cancer, anal warts and oral cancer.”

As HPV is spread via sexual acts, Dr Vinieta Diwakar suggested some things can be done to be safer in that regard -

1) Always use protection by using a condom, this is called the barrier method,

2) Do not change partners often to reduce the risk,

3) Know the sexual history of your partner if they have had multiple partners,

4) In case of any problem, both partners must be treated at the same time and

5) Seek advice from a doctor for any doubts and get vaccinated on time.

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