Before we discuss the new HPV Vaccine, let’s understand what HPV is and how it works. HPV is short for human papillomavirus. It is a virus transmitted through sexual intercourse and is the most common STD in the US. A whopping 20 million people are affected by this virus, with a rate of 6.2 million affected every year.
On the surface, HPV infections don’t produce any symptoms and are mild enough to go away on their own. But regular screening of this virus is important as it can lead to cervical cancer in women.
About 10,000 women in the US are cervical cancer patients, of which one third die every year. Other than cancer, HPV can also cause warts in the genital area and sometimes in the upper respiratory tract as well. There is no treatment for this infection but its symptoms can be treated, and vaccines are used for prevention.
The HPV vaccine prevents four types of HPV including two types that cause cervical cancer and two types that cause genital warts. These vaccines protect for long periods of time, but women still need to get screened as there are HPV types the vaccine does not protect against.
With declining puberty ages, girls as young as 9 years old can be injected with the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine that prevents genital warts can also be given to young boys of 9 or above. It is important for young adults to get vaccinated before their first coitus because once they are affected the vaccine will not be of any help.
Even if young boys and girls have not received their vaccination before their first sexual contact, they can still get vaccinated after being screened. The vaccine is usually given in three doses. The second dose is given after two months of the first dose. And the third dose is given after four months of the second dose.
The new HPV vaccine claims to prevent more types of HPV. Instead of four HPV types, the vaccine now targets nine different HPV viruses. Moreover, it will not only protect against cervical cancer, but also against anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers.
These vaccines are absolutely safe and have not produced any serious side effects, although there are a few things to look out for. Before getting vaccinated, inform your doctor of any allergies you may have, especially if you are allergic to yeast.
Pregnant women are also recommended to not take this vaccine. Even though the vaccine will not be harmful to the mother or baby, research is still being conducted on this matter. Small symptoms, such as itching or redness in the injected area or a mild fever, are harmless and usually go away within a few hours. However, if you experience any major symptoms they would be the following: high fever, allergic reaction, behavioral changes, hives, weakness, difficulty breathing, increased heart beat or dizziness.