The Gardasil vaccine offers valuable protection against the highly common and potentially dangerous sexually transmitted disease known as HPV, or human papilloma virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that there were approximately 43 million HPV infections in 2018, making it the most common STD in the nation. While many of these infections will clear on their own – it can go away without health problems within two years in 9 out of 10 people – some have the potential to cause serious health problems like certain types of cancer, particularly cervical cancer. HPV can also lead to genital warts.
Unfortunately, a person who has HPV can pass it along to someone else even if they are not experiencing any symptoms, and many people are not aware they are infected. Moreover, it can take years after having sex with an infected person to develop symptoms.
Who Should Get Gardasil?
The CDC recommends that all girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12 get the vaccine, although it can be administered to people as young as 9. Ideally, girls and boys should receive the vaccine prior to their first sexual contact and potential HPV exposure as it may not be as effective once a person has been infected with HPV. Moreover, the response to the vaccine is typically better among younger people than those who are older.
According to the CDC, people under the age of 15 should receive two doses of Gardasil at least six months apart, while for those aged 15 through 26, three doses of the vaccine are needed. Women who are 27 to 45 should talk to their doctor about whether or not they need the vaccine. It may not be necessary for everyone in this age group, so discuss your risk with your doctor to make an informed decision.
Who Should Avoid Gardasil?
The Gardasil vaccine has not been tested in pregnant women and should therefore be avoided by anyone who is pregnant. People who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they are feeling better to get the vaccine.
It is also important to discuss all of your allergies with your doctor prior to vaccination, particularly if you are allergic to yeast or latex. Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction in the past to any of the vaccine’s components should avoid it as should those who have had severe reactions to a previous dose of the vaccine.
Are There Side Effects Or Health Risks?
Studies have shown that the vaccine is generally safe and its effects are typically mild. Some of the more common side effects include swelling at the injection site and soreness.
Nevertheless, patients are advised to stay sitting for 15 minutes following the shot as dizziness or fainting may occur. Some people may also experience weakness, fatigue, nausea, and headaches. The vaccine is being monitored by the CDC and FDA for severe or unusual problems.
Is The Vaccine A Requirement For Attending School?
The HPV vaccine is now a part of the standard routine childhood vaccination schedule. However, each state makes its own decisions about which vaccines are required for school enrollment.
Can Gardasil Provide Protection If You Are Already Sexually Active?
Even if you have already been infected with one strain of HPV, the vaccine still offers benefits as it may protect you from other strains. However, it is important to keep in mind that its protection is limited only to those strains you have not yet been exposed to; it cannot treat an existing HPV infection.
Do Vaccinated People Still Need Pap Tests?
Although the HPV vaccine can help reduce your chances of developing HPV-related cancer, it is not intended to replace Pap tests. It is still important to get routine screening for cervical cancer with regular Pap tests as part of preventative health care since the vaccine does not protect against every strain of HPV that can cause cancer.
It is important to protect yourself during sexual interactions whether you have the HPV vaccine or not. Keep in mind that HPV can spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Using a condom every time you have sex is essential, but it is important to understand that condoms do not cover every part of the body that could become infected with HPV. It is also important to avoid smoking as this can raise your risk of cervical cancer.
Learn More About Gardasil And Sexual Health
If you would like to learn more about sexually transmitted diseases, get a Pap test, or receive the Gardasil vaccine, get in touch with Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness today. Our team of health care professionals can help you determine your risk and the best way to ensure you are protected.