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The HPV Vaccine: Does Your Child Need It?

The HPV vaccine is most effective when children take it before they reach a sexually active age, for protection later in life. Learn more about the virus and the vaccine to make an informed decision.

Young girl in her tweens is getting an injection to her shoulder administered by a health professional.

The HPV vaccine or human papillomavirus vaccine is ideally administered before a child reaches a sexually active age to prevent the infection and spread of HPV. Governments and public health institutions usually recommend children get it before puberty as it works best before they might be exposed to the virus.

HPV is a group of over 100 types of viruses. These viruses can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and throat. It’s also responsible for genital warts.

Here are more facts about the vaccine and whether your child should take it. 

What Is the HPV Vaccine For? 

You could have contracted HPV at some point in your life and not even know it, as your body can fight the infection on its own. However, in some people, the infection will cause abnormal tissue growth, some of which can lead to cancer.

If you have HPV, symptoms don’t often show. Because of this, the virus is easily spread, usually through sexual contact.

The HPV vaccine can help prevent infection and spread. Vaccinated people are less likely to fall ill even if infected. They are also less likely to infect their sexual partner. Of course, it’s important to practice other safe sex practices, such as using condoms. 

Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?

A young couple lay on their front outdoors on the grass.
HPV infections primarily happen through sexual contact and are common around the age when someone becomes sexually active.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent recommendations as of December 2022 are: 

  • A two-dose vaccine for girls and boys nine to 14 years old  
  • A three-dose vaccine for girls, women, boys, and men 15 to 26 years old  

WHO considers girls as the primary target for vaccination. The secondary vaccination targets include boys and older women.

What Is the TCM Perspective on HPV and the HPV vaccine? 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has no specific classification for HPV, but it recognises viral infections as part of a compromised immune system.

“As a result of Spleen and Kidney Deficiency, Liver Qi (vital life force) and Blood Stagnation, pathogens such as Dampness, Heat, and toxins could invade the Chong (Penetrating Vessel) and Ren (Conception Vessel) meridians. 

Dampness comprises both external and internal Dampness. External Dampness invades the womb when one’s immunity is compromised, resulting in dysfunction of the Ren and Dai (Griddle Vessel) meridians. These meridians are associated with gynaecological conditions like leucorrhoea.”

TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling

In TCM, the defence against pathogens focuses on optimising immunity. Since the virus can infect anyone, Physician Lim acknowledges that both girls and boys would benefit from prevention. 

TCM states that women with Spleen and Kidney Qi Deficiency are more likely to fall ill if infected with HPV. They’re unable to generate defensive qi to fight off an HPV infection, which is toxic-damp in nature. 

TCM as a viable complementary treatment for HPV-related illnesses 

Numerous studies show that TCM treatments are successful in treating HPV infections.

A recent 2021 study, for example, showed that the Buqi Qushi Jiedu (补气祛湿解毒) decoction combined with an antiviral drug significantly reduced symptoms of HPV infection after 90 days of treatment.

Results indicated that this combined treatment was better than the antiviral alone. It cleared Heat, removed toxicity, invigorated the Spleen and stomach, and replenished qi.

A cup containing a Chinese herbal remedy on a white surface surrounded by loose dried herbs and herbs in plastic bags.
TCM herbal decoctions have been shown to help treat HPV-related infections.

These are the herb combinations in the Buqi Qushi Jiedu decoction and their benefits

  • Milkvetch root (huang qi, 黄芪) and liquorice (gan cao, 甘草) to invigorate the Spleen and eliminate Dampness 
  • Chinese thorowax root (chai hu, 柴胡) and amur cork-tree (huang bai, 黃柏) to clear Heat and remove toxicity 
  • Chinese angelica (dang gui, 当归) to promote blood circulation to remove blood stasis;  
  • Coix seed (yi yi ren, 薏苡仁) for its anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties  

Compounds in the herbs work by regulating and modulating the processes involved in abnormal cell growth. Many of these herbs, like coix seed, also bolster the body’s immunity

The HPV vaccine is certainly an option to consider for added protection for your child. That said, nutrition and health education from an early age are always important, regardless of whether you opt for the vaccination or not. 

Talk to your family paediatrician to make an informed decision. Share your thoughts on the HPV vaccine with us below!

References

  1. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2018. Knowledge, Decision-Making and Acceptance of Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination among Parents of Primary School Students in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  2. National Health Services (NHS), United Kingdom. 2019. HPV Vaccine Overview. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  3. KidsHealth.org. 2022. HPV Vaccine. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. HPV Vaccine. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  5. World Health Organization (WHO). 2022. WHO updates recommendations on HPV vaccination schedule. [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  6. Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2015. Summary of Chinese Medicine Treatment of Cervical Human Papillomavirus Infection. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023]  
  7. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2021. Functions of Traditional Chinese Medicine Combined with Recombinant Human Interferon α2b in Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasias Patients. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  8. BioScience Trends. 2019. Traditional Chinese medicine for human papillomavirus (HPV) infections: A systematic review. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  9. VitalityMagazine.com. 2015. Herb Formulas and Dietary Therapy for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 
  10. World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews. 2020. Acupuncture and herbal treatment for human papillomavirus (HPV) and uterine myoma. [online] [Accessed 21 February 2023] 

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