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If you knew there was a vaccine that could prevent cancer, would you get it? The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine that prevents cancer! This vaccine, Gardasil 9, protects against genital warts and six types of HPV-related cancer: cervical cancer, throat cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. It’s also easier than ever to get the HPV vaccine. Here’s what you need to know about HPV, the vaccine, and what you need to do to get your shots:

What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a virus that people can only get through sexual contact. It lives in the skin and is a very common sexually transmitted infection, as 80 percent of people who are sexually active will get it at some point in their lives. HPV is often asymptomatic, so most of the time people don’t know that they have it and the immune system is able to clear up HPV on its own. However, about 20 percent of the time, HPV remains persistent in the body and can lead to cancer over time.

Why should I get the HPV vaccine?

Although HPV is an STI, routine STI testing does not screen for it. HPV is screened for during a cervical cancer screening, where most people find out if they have HPV. The only way to prevent HPV (besides remaining abstinent) is to get the HPV vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is a series of two or three shots (depending on your age) that protect against nine strains of HPV, hence the brand name Gardasil 9. These nine strains cause a vast majority of genital warts and the six types of cancer mentioned earlier. Anyone ages 9 through 45 is eligible to get the vaccine. The vaccine not only protects against cancer, but if you’ve already been exposed to one strain of HPV, the vaccine may protect you from the other strains. The side effects associated with the vaccine are minimal, where some report a sore arm and that’s it. No need to worry about spending a day in bed after getting the HPV vaccine!

How do I get the HPV vaccine?

It’s easier than ever to get the HPV vaccine, especially with Medicaid Expansion allowing more Missourians and Illinoisans than ever to get Medicaid and have health insurance. Medicaid covers important preventive health care, including the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is also covered by most health insurance plans. Anyone interested in getting, or continuing, the HPV vaccine series can do so at Planned Parenthood! All eight of our health centers across Missouri and southern Illinois have appointments available and accept both Medicaid and private health insurance.

If you’re under 15, then you only need two shots over a six-month period. If you’re 15 and older (whether or not you’re sexually active), then it a three-shot series over a six-month period. If you’ve already had one or two shots and forgot to complete your series, then you can still finish it! You don’t need to start over. You can schedule an appointment with Planned Parenthood to get the rest of your shots.

There’s no better time to get the HPV vaccine than right now, especially if you are under 45 and haven’t gotten all of your shots yet. It’s never too late to protect against cancer, and with Medicaid Expansion, many Missourians and Illinoisians can get Medicaid and not have to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine. Make an appointment with Planned Parenthood, or get free Medicaid enrollment help to learn more.


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