Why should you get vaccinated?
Widespread vaccination has the potential to reduce cervical cancer deaths around the world by as much as two thirds, if all women were to take the vaccine and if protection turns out to be long-term.
HPV vaccine is an inactivated (not live) vaccine which protects against four major types of HPV. These include two types that cause 70% of cervical disaster and two types that cause about 90% of genital warts. The HPV vaccine can prevent most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer.
Studies thus far have shown that Gardasil can provide protection against HPV 16 for four years and Cervarix showed protection from HPV 16 and 18 for more than four years.
However, vaccinated women still need cancer screening as it does not protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer.
Although these vaccines can help prevent HPV infection it is not know if they can get rid of existing cervical cell changes due to HPV.
How effective are HPV vaccines?
Gardasil and Cervarix are highly effective in preventing infection with the types of HPV that they target.
Gardasil prevented nearly 100% of the precancerous cervical cell changes caused by the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine for up to four years after being vaccinated. Two follow up studies of Gardasil confirmed these findings.
The studies also found that the vaccine was less effective in women who had previously been exposed to HPV types 16 and 18.
Who should get vaccinated and when?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls 11-12 years old. Doctors my give it to girls as young as 9 years. It is important for girls to get the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active because they have not been exposed to HPV.
For these girls the vaccine can prevent up to almost 100% of the disease caused by the four types of HPV types targeted by the vaccine. However, if a girl or woman is already infected with a type of HPV, the vaccine will not prevent disease from that type.
The vaccine is also recommended for girls and women 13-26 years of age who did not receive it when they were younger.
The vaccine is given in three doses over a period of six months.
Who should not get the vaccine or wait?
- Anyone who has ever had a life threatening allergic reactions to yeast, to any component of the HPV vaccine or to a previous does of HPV vaccine
- Pregnant women should not get the vaccine. The vaccine appears to be safe for both the mother and the unborn baby however, this is still being studied. If you have received the vaccine while you are pregnant there is no need to terminate the pregnancy. Women who are breastfeeding may get the vaccine.
- People who are mildly ill when the injection is scheduled can still get the vaccine however, if you are seriously ill you should wait until you have fully recovered.
How safe is the HPV vaccine?
The vaccine does not appear to have any serious side effects however, a vaccine like any other medication can cause serious problems such as severe allergic reaction. The risk of any vaccine causing serious problems or death is very small.
- Pain at the injection site
- Redness or swelling at the injection site
- Mild fever
- Itching at the injection site
- Moderate fever
These symptoms do not last long and may go away on their own.
(Source: National Institute of Health)