Nearly all sexually active individuals contract human papillomavirus, commonly called HPV, at some point in their life, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
Although HPV generally subsides without medicinal intervention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that it can cause various types of cancer in both men and women. One particularly major concern for women is that HPV can cause cervical cancer, a condition that affects nearly 12,000 women each year.
Gardasil 9: A New Preventive Measure Against HPV
Fortunately, on December 9, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil 9, a new HPV vaccine that can prevent up to 90 percent of the cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers caused by the virus.
The National Cancer Institute explains Gardasil 9 is a 9-valent vaccine, meaning that it protects against infection from nine HPV types. As revolutionary as the vaccine may be, though, it's important to note that it does not prevent against all types of HPV that cause cancer. Furthermore, vaccination is not a substitute for cancer screening, and women should regularly get Pap tests.
6 Important Facts About Gardasil 9
The following are six important considerations about Gardasil 9, according to Merck Vaccines:
- The vaccine is not for everyone. It is designed for girls and women between 9 and 26 years of age and males age 9 through 26. Those with hypersensitivity or yeast allergies should not receive the vaccine. Safety and effectiveness of the vaccine has not been assessed for pregnant women, girls under 9 years old or older than 26, or for individuals who are immunocompromised.
- Around one in 10 women experience side effects. Common adverse reactions include injection-site pain, swelling, and redness, headaches, and dizziness.
- Effectiveness varies depending on the HPV strain. The vaccine is designed to prevent cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers, as well as genital warts caused by HPV. It can also prevent certain precancerous lesions. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine is contingent upon the strain of HPV that caused the symptoms or lesions.
- Women still need to undergo regular cancer screenings. Even after vaccination, women should continue undergoing recommended cervical and anal cancer screenings as recommended by their doctor.
- It doesn't protect against other sexually transmitted infections. The vaccination has not been demonstrated to protect against genital diseases that aren't caused by HPV, nor does it protect against HPV and associated conditions if the person has already contracted the virus through sexual activity.
- The vaccine is delivered in three doses. Administration consists of three separate injections into the muscle. After the initial dose, the next shots are given after two and six months.
Look around you -- for every 10 people, only one will be so lucky as to never contract HPV. Are you that one person?
Rather than gambling with your health, protect yourself by learning more about sexually transmitted infections. Review the information available via the CDC, and for further information regarding the safety and efficacy of Gardasil 9, read the product pamphlet provided by Merck. And, as always, be sure to consult with your health care provider regarding treatment options.