World Immunisation Week – preventing cancers with the HPV vaccine As part of World Immunisation Week (20-26 April), the Oral Health Foundation is raising awareness about the benefits that can come with vaccinating against disease. As long-time campaigners of Mouth Cancer Action, there’s one jab that’s close to our hearts – the vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV). What is the human papillomavirus? HPV is a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist areas of the body. It can affect both boys and girls and is usually passed through sexual contact. Because of how the virus is transmitted, HPV is very common. Around eight in ten people will get HPV at some point in their life. For most people, HPV is harmless as the virus lays dormant in the body. For some however, it can be life-threatening. HPV is one of the leading causes of mouth cancer, as well as other cancers in the head and neck. It is also linked to cervical, penile and anal cancer, as well as genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP). What is the HPV vaccination? In the UK, the HPV vaccination is available for all school-aged children free on the NHS. The vaccine is usually given at school in year 8, when children are aged 12-13. From 1 April, the updated vaccine is now given in two shots, six months apart, making it far easier for everyone to be protected. The HPV vaccination is used in over 80 countries including the UK, US, Australia, Canada, and most of Western Europe, and more than 80 million people have been vaccinated worldwide. Should I vaccinate my child? Contracting HPV does not mean that a child will develop cancer, but it can cut down on the risk of exposure and development. Up to 5% of all cancers are caused by HPV and the vaccination has been shown to be highly effective for at least ten years. The vaccine is best before a child becomes sexually active, when they are most likely to be exposed to the virus. Oral Health Foundation also believes vaccination is socially responsible. Ultimately, the more children we can protect, the less harm HPV can cause. Are there any side effects? The European Medicines Agency, World Health Organisation and NHS state that there is no solid evidence linking the HPV vaccine with long-term health problems. Safeguarding against dangerous diseases with a quick, easy and simple vaccination could very well protect your children for life. If you would like more information about the HPV vaccination, please visit the NHS website or Jabs For The Boys.