By now, most everyone has seen the commercials on television about the most common HPV vaccine called Gardasil. HPV stands for the Human Papillomavirus and is responsible for both genital warts and abnormal changes on your pap test including cervical cancer.
Even though there are hundreds of different strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18 account for 70% of cervical cancer while HPV-6 and HPV-11 cause 90% of genital warts. Therefore, these four strains are the basis for Gardasil’s protection.
The vaccine is not a live-virus but a “virus-like” particle that will still stimulate a woman’s immunity against these four strains of HPV. The company, Merk, reports girls between 9 and 26 years old can receive it. Lately, there are reports that women up to 45 years old are also seeing benefits.
The vaccine does not protect everyone – especially if you already have these most common strains of HPV or if you have a different, less common strain. Also, it is not meant as a treatment should you acquire genital warts or an abnormal pap. Currently, the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women and is still being studied on men. Additionally, those who have yeast sensitivities should not receive Gardasil as it is a component of the vaccine.
The company states that girls, ideally between the ages of 11 and 12, who are not yet sexually active should start the first of the three rounds of vaccinations. The schedule of injection should occur over the next 6 months and costs about $125 per dose. A woman can still receive the vaccination up to 26 years old even if she is sexually active and has one of the common HPV strains because she could develop protection against the other three.
Once a woman has been vaccinated, it is not yet known how long the effects will last or if she will need a booster shot. Also, it is not a replacement for her yearly pap test.
The most common side effects at the site of injection are pain, swelling, and redness. Systemically, women frequently experience fever, nausea, itching, dizziness, vomiting, headache and fainting.