To prevent sexually transmitted infection, the HPV vaccine is recommended for kids starting at 11 or 12, and is offered to males up to age 21 and females up to age 26. The thinking is that most sexually active men and women will acquire HPV infections at some point in their lives, so a vaccine is a smart prophylactic measure recommended to all.
What the HPV Vaccine Does
HPV is known to cause genital warts and, more significantly, cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, penis, and throat. While the virus has about 40 types, about 12, especially types 16 and 18, lead to high grade lesions and cervical cancer. The remaining sub-types are considered low risk. The HPV vaccine can help prevent infections of most, though not all, HPV strains. However, the vaccine is powerless against other STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and others.
Since virtually everyone who is sexually active is at risk for HPV, getting the vaccine is a smart idea. Every year, about 14 million people become infected with HPV, and 90% of men and 80% of women are expected to contract HPV infections during their lifetime. While some strains have no symptoms and go away within a year without causing further damage, about half are high risk strains of HPV that can lead to cell changes that indicate cancer.
Who Should Get the Vaccine
The HPV vaccine is available under the brand name Gardasil®, Gardasil®9, and Cevarix® To get the full benefits of the vaccine, taking all three shots in the series is the best course of action, though even one dose of the vaccine offers some protection. After the first shot is administered, dose two comes two months later, with the third dose about six months after the original shot.
The only exceptions to vaccine use are among those who have experienced the life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast, a component of the HPV vaccine, to any other ingredients in it, or to a previous shot. Currently, the CDC does not recommend that pregnant women receive the vaccine.
Avoiding STDs, Including HPV
Aside from abstinence, there exists no foolproof way to avoid HPV and other STDs. Only practicing “safe sex” by using barrier protection, i.e. latex condoms, during every incidence of vaginal and anal intercourse, along with oral contact will reduce the risks of sexually transmitted diseases of all types. Other measures that reduce risk include limiting sex to mutually monogamous relationships and obtaining the vaccine. Those who get the vaccine seldom contract genital HPV infections.
Combined with cervical screening, the vaccine provides the greatest degree of protection against cervical cancer and other HPV related viruses. Obtaining this protection usually incurs no out-of-pocket costs. The three doses, which might cost $130-$160 per dosage, are usually covered by insurance. Some clinics who administer it charge less, and most vaccine manufacturers offer the vaccine at no charge for those without health insurance.
To get vaccinated or to learn more about HPV vaccines, contact one of Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center locations today.