Protect Yourself with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine!

HPV is a common virus that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during heavy petting, oral sex or intercourse with another person. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women and genital warts in men and women. There are about 11,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States. Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in women each year in the United States. About 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the United States have genital warts at any one time. Since HPV infection may have no overt symptoms, it is important to have routine pap smears and genital examinations by a medical professional. The most effective prevention method from HPV disease is HPV vaccine.

What HPV vaccines are available in the United States?

Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the FDA and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These vaccines are Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (made by Merck).

How are the two HPV vaccines similar?

  • Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers. So both vaccines prevent cervical cancer and precancer in women.
  • Both vaccines are very safe.
  • Both vaccines are made with very small parts of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cannot cause infection with HPV, so neither of the vaccines can cause HPV infection.
  • Both vaccines are given as shots and require 3 doses.

How are the two HPV vaccines different?

  • Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) also protects against HPV types 6 and 11. These HPV types cause most genital warts in females and males.
  • The vaccines have different adjuvants”a vaccine adjuvant is a substance that is added to the vaccine to increase the body's immune response.

Who should get HPV vaccine?

Cervarix and Gardasil are licensed, safe, and effective for females ages 9 through 26 years. CDC recommends that all girls who are 11 or 12 years old get the 3 doses (over a period of 6 months) of either brand of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer and precancer. Gardasil also protects against most genital warts. Girls and young women ages 13 through 26 should get all 3 doses of an HPV vaccine if they have not received all doses yet.

Gardasil is also licensed, safe, and effective for males ages 9 through 26 years. Boys and young men may choose to get this vaccine to prevent genital warts.

People who have already had sexual contact before getting all 3 doses of an HPV vaccine might still benefit if they were not infected before vaccination with the HPV types included in the vaccine they received. The best way to be sure that a person gets the most benefit from HPV vaccination is to complete all three doses before sexual activity begins.

Are there other HPV diseases that the two vaccines may prevent?

Studies have shown that Gardasil prevents cancers of the vagina and vulva, which like cervical cancer, can be caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Studies of Cervarix have not specifically looked at protection against vaginal and vulvar cancers.

Published studies have not looked at other health problems that might be prevented by HPV vaccines. It is possible that HPV vaccines will also prevent cancers of the head and neck, penis, and anus due to HPV 16 or 18. Gardasil might prevent recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), a rare condition caused by HPV 6 or 11 in which warts grow in the throat.

Most of the above information was taken from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/vac-faqs.htm .

For more specific vaccine information, refer to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hpv.pdf

SHOTS, etc. offers a Patient Assistance Program for individuals who have no insurance and who meet financial guidelines. Certain vaccines may be obtained for a nominal injection fee. Visit www.SHOTSetc.com  for detail