Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. About 20 million people are already infected and 6.2 million more get infected every year. More than 50% of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives.
There are about 40 types of HPV. Most don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own.
- HPV Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer cases. (99% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.)
- HPV Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts.
The HPV vaccine (Gardasil®) is an inactivated (not live) vaccine that protects against these four major types of HPV.
Who Should/Should Not Get Vaccinated
- The current recommendation is that the HPV vaccine be given to females between the ages of 9 and 26 to help prevent cervical cancer and/or genital warts.
- Anyone who has ever had a life- threatening allergic reaction to yeast, to any other component of the HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine should not get the vaccine.
- Pregnant women should not get the vaccine – it appears to be safe for mother and fetus but is still being studied.
- Women who are breastfeeding may get the vaccine.
Three is the Key
You need three doses of the vaccine in order for it to be effective. After the first dose, you will need to return 2 months later for the second dose, and then return again 4 months later (6 months from the first dose) for the third dose.
It is extremely important for you to get all three doses on schedule. If you absolutely must miss an appointment, please reschedule as soon as possible.
Common Side Effects
- Pain at the injection site (8/10 females)
- Redness or swelling at injection site (1/4 females)
- Mild fever, about 100o F (1/10 females)
- Itching at the injection site (1/30 females)
- Moderate fever, 102oF (1/65 females)
These symptoms do not last long and go away on their own.
- The HPV vaccine will not treat cervical cancer or genital warts.
- Gardasil may not prevent all types of cervical cancer, so it is very important to continue regular cervical cancer screenings.
- Getting vaccinated will not protect you against diseases caused by HPV types to which you have already been exposed.
- If you get signs of a serious allergic reaction after the injection (difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, fast heartbeat (palpitations), or dizziness, call the doctor or go to the hospital right away.