The human papilloma virus (HPV) is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Because so many young people are getting this virus, an HPV vaccine has been developed, known as Gardasil. This vaccine was designed to prevent cervical cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2006. Parents are beginning to welcome this vaccine since there are so many young people who are sexually active.
There are several types of HPV that are estimated to affect 75% to 80% of both sexes. The good news is that most of the times, this virus clears without any medication. It is believed that many sexually active people acquire one of the strains of this virus during their lifetime without knowing it.
According to Dr. Memarzadeh, in a majority of carriers, the immune system clears the virus before this virus causes any symptoms. She does say, however, that in other cases, HPV can produce cell changes that can lead to serious malignancies such as cancer of the vagina, anus, and head and neck.
Gardasil helps protect against 4 types of HPV. In girls and women, it helps protect against two types of HPV. In boys and men, Gardasil helps protect against 90% of genital warts.
Gardasil may not fully protect everyone. Also, it will not protect against diseases caused by other HPV types or diseases that are not caused by HPV.
This vaccine is usually given as a series of three shots over a six-month period. It is recommended for girls at about the age of 11 and beyond this age. It is felt that it is best to vaccinate before the onset of sexual activities. It is stated that if a young girl or a woman, who knows that she is HPV positive, it is still important to have this vaccine. The reason for this is because the chances are that they have not had all of the strains that this vaccine can prevent.
Some parents have been known to be concerned that by allowing their child or adolescent to receive this vaccine, they are approving their offspring’s sex life.
It is recommended that if a person is allergic to yeast, he/she should not receive this vaccine. Women who are pregnant, should also not receive this vaccine.
There can be some side effects from Gardasil, such as pain, swelling, itching, bruising, headaches, dizziness or nausea. If a person is in doubt about this vaccine, a doctor should be contacted.
Because this vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers, women should continue with their regular Pap smears.
Source: The magazine, UCLA Health System, Vital Signs,