The Institute for Women's Health
Vaccine

HPV-Vaccine-IFWH-SanAntonio

August is Immunization Awareness Month and it’s a great time to talk to your daughter, son, friends, or family members about getting the HPV vaccine – or even getting it yourself. This vaccine protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) –the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States – that can lead to cervical cancers, vulvar cancers, vaginal cancers, anal cancers, oropharyngeal cancers, and genital warts.

To maximize the vaccine’s effectiveness, girls and boys should receive it BEFORE they are sexually active. The recommended age is between 11 and 12 years of age. Although women can receive the vaccine until the age of 26 and men until the age of 21, it will not protect them against HPV infections they have already been exposed to. Many people think that this vaccine is only for girls, but it can also prevent anal cancers, mouth and throat cancers, and genital warts in men.

HPV-Vaccine-IFWH-San-Antonio

There are two types of vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – that protect against HPV-16 and HPV-18 strains, which account for over 70% of cervical cancers and an even greater percentage of HPV-associated cancers. The Gardasil vaccine also helps protect against anal cancers and genital warts. They are all given in a series of three shots over a period of six months. Those that have missed a dose or never finished getting all the shots should visit their doctor to complete the series. More than likely, they will not be required to start the whole series again.

So how does the HPV vaccine protect against these cancers? The vaccine contains proteins that are almost identical to the real HPV. When these proteins are injected, the body creates antibodies to clear this protein from the body. When people that have received the vaccine are exposed to HPV, their body already knows how to defend itself and keep it from entering its cells and creating an infection. The real or live virus is not used in the vaccine so there is zero risk of being infected from it.

One of the most common questions that I hear from my patients is: “Is the vaccine safe?” The response is that clinical studies have shown that it is safe and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also declared it safe after extensive investigation. It is important to keep in mind that just like with any other vaccine, there might be some short-term side effects that can include bruising, itching, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site. Very rarely, individuals have reported dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, but it is important to emphasize that this is extremely uncommon. Doctors and health authorities recommend the HPV vaccine because they know that the benefits heavily outweigh the risks.

S. Holloway, Kathryn, MD
The Institute for Women’s Health

 

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