The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Now, there is a vaccine that protects you from this virus.
All individuals (between ages 9 – 45) should be vaccinated against HPV. The Gardasil vaccine helps protect against 9 types of HPV, which causes: cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females, and anal cancer and genital warts in both males and females. Genital HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, not through an exchange of bodily fluid. This means you can get HPV without actually having sex!
- Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected with genital HPV in their lifetime
- Some studies show that up to 25% of sexually active teenage women are infected with HPV, many with the type of HPV that is linked to cervical cancer
What is the HPV vaccine?
Gardasil 9 helps protect against nine types of HPV that cause about 90% of cervical cancers, 90% of vulvar cancers, 85% of vaginal cancers, 90-95% of anal cancers, and four types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. Gardasil 9 is given as three, separate injections over a six-month period. You must complete the entire series of shots for it to be effective. It’s believed that immunity is achieved one month after the last shot and there is no indication that the immunity decreases over time. For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, CLICK HERE.
What about the HPV vaccine for males?
Although men cannot get cervical cancer, they can transmit the HPV infection to women, who could get cervical cancer. But, males DO get and transmit genital warts. Gardasil 9 is now available for males and helps protect against 90% of genital warts cases. Boys and young men, ages 9 to 45, are candidates for the HPV injection. Encourage your partner to get the Gardasil vaccine…in fact, get vaccinated together!
Why should my daughter get this vaccine before she even has sex?
This vaccine is not a green light for sex but it is a red light to stop cancer in your daughter’s future. The vaccine does not protect against pregnancy or other STIs. This is a cancer vaccine for PRE-exposure to the HPV types that most frequently lead to cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, and vaginal cancer. Getting the vaccine early allows for pre-exposure protection. In fact, it is shown that pre-teens and teens have the best immune response from the vaccine.
We encourage mothers to begin a reproductive health care approach long before their daughters become sexually active. This is a wonderful time to talk frankly about issues of puberty and is an opportunity to open the door for greater communication, accurate education, and re-affirmation of strong self-esteem. These are the most important elements for your daughter to make good decisions about her body, no matter the pressure or wild myths she hears out there.
Who should get this vaccine?
The vaccine is recommended for people between the ages of 9 and 45. If you receive the vaccine before becoming sexually active, the vaccine offers the most protection. Even if you have only had one sexual partner, you may have already been exposed to HPV.
HPV is extremely infectious. And, you may not even know you have it. Your partner may not know they have transmitted it to you. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and 14 million people become infected each year. It is so widespread that, if you do not get vaccinated, almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV.
What if I have been sexually active for a while?
Even if you have been exposed to HPV, research shows that you may not have been exposed to all 9 types “covered” by the vaccine. So even if you’ve been exposed to and infected with one, two, or even three types of HPV, you can benefit from the vaccine.
So, if I get the vaccine, do I still have to have Annual Exams and Pap Smears?
There are over 30 types of HPV that are transmitted by sexual contact of any kind. This vaccine protects against nine very important types, but it doesn’t protect against all of them. Plus, your annual exam, including your breast exam and Pap smear, screens for many other health problems. Have your exam every year!
How much does it cost?
Call us to check on the cost. Your insurance company may pay for the vaccine, since it has been recommended for universal immunization in the age group listed above. We can help verify that information for you.
I can’t afford the shot.
Help is available. If you do not have insurance coverage and/or you’re unable to afford the vaccine, Merck, the pharmaceutical company that has developed and produced Gardasil, has a Patient Assistance Program that may help you get the immunization. The Health Center for Women has applications available in our offices. It only takes about 20 minutes to find out if you are eligible. Please stop in at any of our locations to find out.
Merck, the drug company that manufactures the HPV vaccine Gardasil, offers information on their web site: Information about GARDASIL
Merck also has a patient assistance program available for those without insurance and who cannot afford to pay for the medication:Merck Patient Assistance Program Information
For more helpful and detailed information about HPV and cervical cancer, visit www.hpv.com