Targeted health problems brought by human papillomavirus (HPV) such as genital warts and cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination. Girls can take HPV vaccine as early as 11 and 12 years-old. The idea is to prevent the girls from getting the virus before they become sexually active. Females who are sexually active before getting vaccinated may get less benefit. This is because they may have already been exposed to one or more of the HPV types targeted by the vaccines.
Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers — like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva (area around the opening of the vagina), and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts. Genital warts are not life-threatening. But they can cause emotional stress and their treatment can be very uncomfortable.
Research suggests that vaccine protection is long-lasting. Current studies have followed vaccinated individuals for ten years, and show that there is no evidence of weakened protection over time. However, the vaccine does not protect against ALL types of cervical cancer. It is important that women have cervical screening after getting all recommended shot of the HPV vaccine.
How safe is the HPV vaccine?
The CDC has approved HPV vaccine as safe and effective. This vaccine has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been studied in thousands of people around the world. The studies showed no serious safety concerns. Mild side effects were reported such as pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. Fainting may occur after medical procedure and is more common in adolescent. Since fainting can cause falls and injuries, adolescents and adults should be seated or lying down during HPV vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries.
More research is still needed to prove that HPV vaccine does not affect the baby in the mothers’ womb until then the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
Are there other ways to prevent HPV?
Sexually active individuals may lower their risk of getting HPV with the use of condoms. However, condoms may not fully protect someone from getting the virus because HPV can infect other genital areas.
Having a faithful relationship or sex with one partner only may also lower the chances of getting HPV. Choosing a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners may also help. However, it is hard to determine if your partner is currently affected that’s why the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.