Do I have to get the HPV vaccine?
Whether you have to get vaccinated depends on your age and where you live. In certain states, girls and boys within the recommended ages may need to get the HPV vaccine in order to go to school.
Getting vaccinated could help lead to the reduction of the prevalence of HPV infection. HPV is known to cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal canceras well as cancer of the back of the throat. Cervical cancer alone kills about 4,000 women each year in the U.S. One in four persons in the United States is infected with HPV and most of them are unaware. It spreads easily among infected partners.
The vaccine Cervarix protects against HPV-16 and HPV-18, which is responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers. Gardasil prevents these strains of HPV as well as HPV- 6 and HPV-11, which are known to cause 90% of all genital warts. Gardasil-9 also protects against these four HPV strains as well as five others.
When should I get the HPV immunization?
The best time to get the HPV vaccine is before you've started having sexual activity. That's why the CDC recommends that both boys and girls get their vaccination at age 11 or 12, although they can get the vaccine as early as age 9. If you're 13 or older and you haven't already been vaccinated, you can still get the vaccine through age 26.
If I'm over age 26, can I still get vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine isn't recommended for people over age 26, because it hasn't been studied well enough in this age group. If enough future studies show that it is safe and effective for people over 26, the FDA may eventually start recommending it for this age group.
How many shots do I need?
You'll get three shots of the HPV vaccine over a 6-month period. You need to take all three doses to be completely protected. You'll get the second shot about 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third shot 6 months after the first. Once you've started with a vaccine brand (Cervarix, Gardasil or Gardasil-9), stick with it for all three shots.