The human papilloma virus (also known as HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts and almost all cases of cervical cancer, says the National Cancer Institute. HPV is not curable and symptoms may take up to ten years to develop after contact with an infected partner–making it all that more difficult to detect and prevent when men and women follow the “I can tell if someone has something” or “they looked clean” theory and don’t use barrier protection like a condom with every act of sex.
To help prevent the spread of HPV among men and women alike, the FDA approved the use of the HPV vaccine in 2006 and its use was targeted to girls and young women between the ages of 9 and 26. the first vaccine was released under the brand name Gardasil, and there are now two vaccines of its kind on the market when Cervarix joined the team in 2009. If you haven’t gotten the vaccine or are considering it for your daughter or another woman in your life, here are some facts about the vaccination to consider before rolling up your sleeve.
- The vaccine is recommended before a girl or woman becomes sexually active. Full vaccination requires three shots given at regular intervals. It is recommended for women and girls age 9 to 26, depending on the brand of vaccine you are receiving. Gardasil is also approved for boys and young men up to age 26.
- The vaccine is not recommended while you are pregnant, but if you happened to get a dose before you knew you were pregnant, you should not take any more doses until you deliver and you should also notify the makers of Gardasil or Cervarix through their pregnancy registry.
- The vaccine does not protect against any other STIs including HIV, Hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia just to name a few. Condoms are always recommended.
- Even if you have had the entire three shot series of HPV vaccine, you should still have regular pap smears and screenings for cervical cancer as recommended by your doctor.
- The most common side effect related to vaccine administration is fainting–a common side effect from many vaccines. You may want to take your shot lying down.