Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is the cause of most cervical cancer. It’s
been 2 years since the FDA approved Gardasil® as the first HPV vaccine,
which is effective at preventing approximately 70% of cervical cancer
cases. It also prevents about 90% of genital warts.
Approximately 80% of American adults contract HPV at some point in their
lifetime. Most people will clear this infection thanks to their immune system.
This vaccine is preventative, so it is optimal to be administered before
exposure to HPV. It doesn’t help with established infection, most
of which will resolve because of your immune system. Consequently the
CDC recommends routine vaccination for 11-12 year-old girls and catch-up
vaccination for 13-26 year-old females.
- Women should receive a series of three immunizations at 0, 2, and 6 months
(costs approximately $375).
- The vaccine appears to be safe and without serious side effects in studies
following patients for 5 years. Adverse reactions are mainly injection
site pain. This reaction is common and mild. There is no mercury in the vaccine.
- The duration of protection is unclear. Current studies indicate the vaccine
is effective for five years. There is no evidence of waning immunity during
that time period.
- Research about activity in males, older women, and duration of effectiveness
- Vaccinated women should continue to practice protective sexual behaviors
(e.g. abstinence, monogamy, limiting the number of sex partners, and/or
using condoms), since the vaccine will not prevent all HPV types—nor
will it prevent other STDs.
- Vaccinated women will need regular cervical cancer screening since the
vaccine will not provide protection against all types of HPV that cause
cervical cancer, and since some women may not receive the full vaccine series.
If you have daughters between ages of 9 and 26, check with your pediatrician
if they offer HPV vaccination. If they don’t, or if you are in this
age range, please feel free to
schedule an appointment with us for counseling and immunization. This is an exciting breakthrough
in the prevention of cancer for women.