Gardasil® or HPV vaccine has been gracing front lines for some time now. Over the years I have been asked numerous times about the risk and benefits of this vaccine for male and female adolescents. In this post, I would like to provide the most current information to allow adolescents and their parents to make an educated decision.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine was developed to protect our growing preteen and teen population from most of the cancers caused by HPV infection. HPV is a common virus that affects thousands of men and women yearly. Most of the time, the body naturally fights off HPV before it causes any problems.
In cases when the body is unable to fight off the virus, HPV causes a number of health problems, like cancers and genital warts. HPV is central to the development of cervical neoplasia (precancerous) and can be detected in 99.7% of cervical cancer. Women with cervical cancer are usually asymptomatic in early stages, with symptoms usually presenting themselves when cancer has metastasized. PAP smear is a universal screening that is used to screen women for cervical cancer. For that reason alone, all women 18 years and older should have annual gynecological exam.
Genital warts are fleshy, disfiguring lesions that can be found in both males and females. As with many viral infections, the focus of therapy for anogenital warts is amelioration of symptoms rather than eradication of the virus. Treatments are usually uncomfortable and painful and unfortunately in most cases do not achieve full resolution.
HPV is also associated with several less common cancers, such as vaginal and vulvar cancers in women, and anal and oropharyngeal (back of the throat, including base of tongue and tonsils) cancers in both men and women.
Two vaccines – Gardasil® and Cevarix® – are available to prevent HPV types that cause most cervical and anal cancers. Gardasil also prevents vulvar and vaginal cancers in women and genital warts in both women and males. Only Gardasil has been tested and licensed for use by males. Currently, Gardasil has two formulations – Gardasil 4 and Gardasil 9. Gardasil 4 covers types 6 and 11 that commonly cause genital warts, and types 16 and 18 that commonly found in cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. Gardasil 9 expanded its protective panel against HPV-caused cancers by adding types 31,33, 45, 52 and 58. Both types of Gardasil are recommended for administration to patients between ages 11-12 (both males and females. Gardasil can be administered as early as 9 years of age and as late as 26 years of age in females and 21 years of age in males. HPV vaccine is given as a 3 dose series over a period of 6 months.
More than 57 million doses have been distributed around to date. Vaccine safety is continuously monitored by CDC and FDA. To date, the most common side effects of the vaccine are:
- pain at the site of injection
- redness or mild swelling at the site of injection
Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or laying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls.
Vaccines are meant to protect our children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines are meant to be given before child gets exposed to those illness. This concept includes Gardasil vaccine. If you have any more questions about vaccine you should speak to your child’s pediatrician or go to CDC website.