HPV is one of the most common STDs out there, so it’s a big relief to know that vaccines will protect you against some types of HPV that can cause problems.
What’s the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine helps protect you against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. Also known by the brand name Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine protects against:
HPV types 16 and 18 — the 2 types that cause 80% of cervical cancer cases.
HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts cases.
Another 5 types of HPV (types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) that can lead to cancer of the cervix, anus, vulva/vagina, penis, or throat.
The HPV vaccine is given in a series of shots. For people ages 15-45, the HPV vaccine is 3 separate shots. The second shot is given 2 months after the first, and the third shot is given 4 months after the second shot. So, in all, it takes about 6 months to get all 3 shots.
For people ages 9-14, you only need to get 2 shots. The second shot is given 6 months after the first shot.
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
All people ages 9 to 45 can get the HPV vaccine to protect against genital warts and/or different types of HPV that can cause cancer. It’s recommended that children get the vaccine at age 11 or 12, so they’re fully protected years before they become sexually active.
But regardless of your age, talk with your nurse or doctor to find out if the HPV vaccine could benefit you.
How effective is the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is one of the most effective vaccines you can get. Studies show that the HPV vaccine works extremely well to prevent high-risk HPV and the problems it can cause. If you get all recommended shots of the HPV vaccine before you have sex, it can lower your chances of getting genital warts and cancer caused by HPV by up to 99%.
The HPV vaccine works best when you get it years before you have any sexual contact with another person. That’s why it’s recommended to get vaccinated at ages 11-12. But even if you’ve already had sex or know you’ve had HPV, it’s still a good idea to get the HPV vaccine. There are several strains of HPV that can cause cancer and genital warts, and the vaccine can protect you from any strains you haven’t been exposed to yet.
How long is the HPV vaccine effective?
Studies also show that the HPV vaccine gives long-lasting protection against HPV. The longer the vaccine is out, the more scientists will know about how long it works for. But so far the vaccines are being shown to last for many years.
Since the HPV vaccine was recommended in 2006 in the U.S., rates of infection, genital warts, and cervical precancers have gone down a lot.
Are there HPV vaccine side effects?
Research shows that the vaccine is safe. The most common side effect is temporary pain and redness where you get the shot.
One of the reasons the HPV vaccine is controversial is because it prevents a sexually transmitted infection, which leads some people to believe it’s inappropriate for children. But, the thing is, the vaccine works best if you get it long before you have sex. So it’s a good idea to get it when you’re young so you won’t have to worry about getting certain kinds of cancer later in life.
Studies show that the HPV vaccine doesn’t lead to people having more sex or sex at a younger age. So giving kids the HPV vaccine doesn’t encourage them to have sex. All it does is help protect them from genital warts and cancer in adulthood.
If I already have an HPV infection, can the vaccine treat it?
Nope. If you already have an HPV infection, getting an HPV vaccine can’t treat it. It can, however, protect you from getting other types of HPV.
If you have an HPV infection, talk with your doctor or nurse to find out what tests or treatment you need.
Do I still need to get Pap/HPV tests if I got the HPV vaccine?
Yup. Pap tests are still an important way to find and prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of HPV that can cause cancer. So it's still important to get Pap/HPV tests to find any cell changes that might lead to cervical cancer.
Where can I get the HPV vaccine?
You can get the HPV vaccine at many Planned Parenthood health centers. You can also get it from other clinics, health departments, and private nurses and doctors.
How much does the HPV vaccine cost?
Each dose of the vaccine can cost about $250. Luckily, many health insurance companies cover the HPV vaccine. There are also programs that help some people without insurance get the vaccine for low or no cost.
You deserve to be healthy, regardless of whether you have health insurance. Talk with the staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center or another nurse or doctor to get more information about ways to make the vaccine more affordable.