What is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
The HPV vaccine helps protect you against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. Immunization against the virus could help reduce cervical cancer cases worldwide.
What does the vaccine do?
There are several strains of HPV which are spread through sexual contact. The HPV vaccine has been approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in girls and boys. Giving the vaccine to children can help to protect them against associated diseases later in life, such as:
- Cervical cancer in women
- Vaginal and vulvar cancer in women
- Genital warts in both men and women
- Anal cancer in both men and women
Vaccinating boys against HPV is expected to help reduce the risks of cervical cancer in women thanks to the decreased likelihood of transmission of the virus.
It is also thought that the vaccine may help to protect against some types of throat and mouth cancer which HPV has also been linked to.
Who should get the vaccine and when?
The U.S. FDA has approved the use of HPV vaccine for males and females, from age 9 up to age 45. However, it is recommended that boys and girls aged 11 or 12 are given the HPV vaccination. The response to the vaccination is better at younger ages, but the main priority is to give the vaccination before a person encounters HPV at any stage of their life. HPV infections can be spread by any skin-to-skin or sexual contact.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends the following vaccination schedule:
- In children aged 9 to 14, two doses of the HPV vaccine should be given at least six months apart. If second dose is missed, it can be given after up to 12 months. If the second dose is given before 6 months, a third dose is required after 6 months.
- Children aged 15 to 17, HPV vaccine can be given in three doses. Second dose is given after 1 month from first dose then the third dose can be given after 3 months from second dose. The schedule should be completed within 12 months from the first dose. This schedule can be an alternative schedule for children aged 9-14 years old.
- Three doses of the vaccine should be given, with the second dose given 1 month after the first and the third given 3 months after the second dose. The schedule should be complete in 12 months.
These Doses are according to the BNF for adults and children ‘September 2018-2019’
Who should not get the vaccine?
The following people should not get the vaccine:
- Pregnant women
- Moderately or severely ill people
- Those who have experienced a life threatening allergic reaction to any components of the vaccine or a previous dose of HPV vaccine
If you have any severe allergies or if you are allergic to latex or yeast, you should mention this to your doctor before going ahead with the vaccine.
Are there any risks or side effects?
Most side effects of the vaccine are mild and may include soreness in the arm where the vaccine was injected, swelling or redness at the vaccination site. Some people experience pain in the extremities.
Some rare side effects include dizziness or fainting after the injection. Staying seated for 15 minutes afterwards can help to reduce this risk. There is a chance you may also experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue or weakness.
Ongoing monitoring for severe or unusual side effects is in place with the CDC and the U.S. FDA.