What if we told you that a simple vaccine could prevent cancer? Well, it’s not quite that simple, but the Gardasil vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) is the next best thing. And the sooner you protect yourself, the better.
HPV infections are extremely common. Nearly everyone will get HPV at some point in their lives, so it’s entirely possible that you already have the virus in your system! According to the CDC, more than one in ten Americans has a type of HPV that causes disease, with 13 million more Americans being infected every year.
Most infections will disappear within two years, often without ever showing symptoms, but sometimes, HPV infections will last longer and cause several forms of cancer. That’s why early vaccination is so important.
There’s no treatment that can cure an HPV infection itself — if you’re not vaccinated and you become infected, the only thing you can do is hope that your immune system clears the infection on its own. Even if it doesn’t, most symptoms can be treated:
HPV is most commonly associated with cervical cancer, but regardless of your age, sex, gender, or sexual activity, HPV can pose a significant risk. In addition to cervical cancer, HPV is responsible for nearly all new cases of anal, head, neck, and oropharyngeal (throat) cancer.
Gardasil-9 can drastically reduce the prevalence of certain types of cancer, especially when it’s administered to younger patients before they’re exposed.
Currently, the CDC recommends that the HPV vaccine be administered before the patient begins engaging in sexual activity — as early as age 11. Children who receive the vaccine before their 15th birthday need only two doses, while anyone who receives their first dose after their 15th birthday will need three doses to create the same level of immunity.
Gardasil-9 is still recommended for patients up to 45 years old. Even if you’re monogamous or not sexually active, Gardasil-9 is a good idea — you never know what the future holds, and if your situation changes when you’re too old to get the vaccine, it’ll be too late to protect yourself.
Gardasil-9 went through rigorous research, development, and safety measures before being approved by the FDA. Since Gardasil does not contain a live virus, it’s not possible to become infected from the vaccine itself.
As with any vaccine, there is always a chance of side effects, including:
For more information about the safety of Gardasil-9, see the CDC website on vaccine safety.
According to the CDC, vaccination has been shown to remain effective for at least 10 years after the last dose is administered. Since Gardasil 9 is relatively new, data is still being collected on the length of effectiveness of the vaccine.
Over 88 million doses of Gardasil-9 have been administered since 2009, and there is no evidence that it causes infertility or reduced fertility. On the other hand, the protection offered by Gardasil can prevent genital warts and many types of cancer that actively harm fertility.
If you’re conscientious about your sexual health, then protecting yourself from HPV is a vital step. If you’re under the age of 45 and haven’t been vaccinated against HPV, talk to your healthcare provider about receiving the vaccine at your next visit. Along with safe sex practices and regular screenings, the Gardasil vaccine can go a long way toward preventing many serious sexually transmitted diseases.