Doctors say it could prevent cervical cancer. So why are some women hesitating to vaccinate themselves and their daughters? Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an ob-gyn and CBS News medical correspondent, argues both sides so that you can make an educated decision.
By far, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States is the human papilloma virus, also known as HPV. This destructive virus causes genital warts, abnormal pap smears, cervical cancer and some anal and throat cancers. By the age of 50, 80 percent of women have been exposed to HPV. The virus is passed by direct, skin-to-skin contact, so condoms do not completely prevent transmission.
In 2006, a cervical cancer vaccine was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that helps your body mount immunity against HPV. It covers only four of the more than 100 subtypes of HPV. These four types are also the four most aggressive, high-risk types in the United States and are those linked with 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and a majority of cases of genital warts.
The vaccine does not contain live HPV, so you cannot contract the virus by receiving the vaccine. Even though the vaccine has only been available for three years, more than 23 million doses have already been administered in the United States. If you are injected with the vaccine, it does not mean that you will not get HPV. You still can because there are so many different types of the virus the vaccine does not affect.