Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

The most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States is the Genital Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. There are currently around 20 million cases in the U.S. alone, with around 6 million new cases each year. HPV can cause cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancers, and other types of cancers that effect both men and women.

Currently, there is no known cure for HPV. However, there are treatments for the symptoms caused by HPV.

HPV Vaccines include Merck’s Gardasil and GSK’s Cervarix

The HPV vaccine can prevent most types of cervical cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Though the HPV vaccine is long-term protection, routine cervical cancer screenings are still recommended for women.

The HPV vaccine has not been tested on women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, so women who learn they are pregnant after receiving the vaccine are encouraged to call the manufacturer’s HPV vaccine registry at 1-888-452-9622.

The HPV vaccine comes in two forms; the first form is to prevent the two most common forms of cervical cancer caused by HPV and is only given to women. The second can be given to both men and women and prevents some types of genital warts, vulvar cancer, and vaginal cancer.

The vaccine is given in three stages. The first stage is given the day of the appointment. The second stage is given 1-2 months after the first stage. The third stage is given 6 months after the first stage.

Risks for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

As with all medications, there is a risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Other risks include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain.

Brief fainting spells can occur directly after the injection is given, therefore lying down or sitting for 15 minutes after the injection is given is recommended. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy, light-headed, experience vision changes or have ringing in your ears.

Is the vaccine right for you?

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 12, but can be given as early as 9 years of age. The reason for administering the vaccine at this age is to make sure they have the vaccine before they become sexually active. Once a woman has become infected, the vaccine may not work as well, if at all.

A “catch-up” vaccine is also available for women ages 13-26 who did not get all three doses when they were younger.

Do not get the HPV vaccine if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. Serious allergic reactions include rash, swelling of the hands, feet, face, or lips, and breathing difficulty.

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