|[Gardasil 9 Vaccination Card. Photo taken by Dongmin Lim]|
Every summer, elementary schools in South Korea notify female studentsaged 12 to 13to get vaccinated for cervical cancer. HPV(Human Papilloma Virus) is the main cause of cervical cancer, and a government-run clinic called ‘Healthy Women’s First Step Clinic’ provides free HPV vaccinations for teenage girls. HPV vaccination is highly recommended to people regardless of age, sex or sexual experience. But despite this fact, there are still many people who are hesitant or ignorant of the importance of preventing cervical cancer.
|[Interviewing Dr. DaeJoong Park at his office. Photo taken by Dongmin Lim]|
Dr. DaeJoong Park, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, provided some background knowledge regarding cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix and it can be prevented by vaccines, including vaccination for Hepatitis B. Its main cause is HPV, which can infect the genital, mouth and throat of both men and women. Among many types of HPV, the ‘high risk’ types that can develop into cervical cancer include HPV type 16,18, 31, 33, 52, and 58. The ‘low risk’ types include HPV type 6,11,34, and 40, which can cause genital warts.
Dr. Park also explained the commonly used vaccines for preventing HPV. There are two types of cervical cancer vaccination: Cervarix and Gardasil. Cervarix creates antibodies of HPV type 16 and 18, which account for 70% of invasive cervical cancers. Full Gardasil 9 prevents seven more, including HPV type 6, 11, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. South Korea's free vaccination program is currently providing Cervarix and Gardasil 4 which covers HPV type 6, 11, 16, and 18.
Unfortunately, “the three-dose vaccination series of Gardasil 9 ranges between 400$ to 500$, and it cannot be covered with medical insurance in South Korea,” according to Dr.Park. Furthermore, the numerous cases of side effects reported from Japan in 2013 had made people skeptical about the effectiveness of the vaccination.
However, Dr. Park explained that a lot of side effects were reported in a short period of time because“more than three million shots were distributed at once.” He said that “Japan made a new statement recommending the widespread renewal of Gardasil 9, after the death rate of cervical cancer has increased by 10% in the past ten years.” When I asked if doctors recommend their children to take the vaccination, Dr.Park answered positively without hesitation. “WHO (World Health Organization)has conducted several tests to identify the potential dangers of cervical cancer vaccine and none were found.”
|[Me getting the first shot of Gardasil 9. Photo taken by Dongmin Lim]|
Dr. Park highly encouraged getting vaccinated, regardless of the high cost because cervical cancer had the highest incidence rate in obstetrics and gynecology diseases, and was recorded the 7th most common disease overall. “The prevalence of HPV in South Korea is quite high, and once infected, the person carries the virus forever” Dr.Park added to emphasize the importance of the vaccination. He asserted that HPV is highly recommended for men as well because it is infectious regardless of gender. In fact, Gardasil 9 already has been approved to be taken by men of age 9 to 26. “Venereal diseases cannot be prevented by a single gender. There are many couples getting vaccinated together these days and I see this as a very positive change,” said Dr.Park
The rate of cervical cancer vaccination is increasing, but there are still many teenagers who are unaware of the disease and methods to prevent it. Given that the average age of people diagnosed with venereal diseases is getting lower, students must be educated with accurate and concrete sexual knowledge.
Thornlea Secondary School
Dongmin Lim firstname.lastname@example.org
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