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STDWatch
Hannah Kingston

Mar 25, 20227 min read

Can HPV be prevented with a vaccine?

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Human papillomavirus within about 2 years.

However, HPV isn’t always harmless. It can cause certain types of cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer type associated with HPV, and it can also lead to cancer of the penis, vagina, vulva, anus, and even the throat. There are about 36,000 cases of HPV-related cancer each year in the US. In addition, HPV can cause genital warts.

Fortunately, there is a way to prevent these health problems. An HPV vaccine is available, and is recommended for all teens and young adults. Here are answers to the most common questions about the HPV vaccine.

Does the HPV vaccine prevent all types of HPV?

There are over 100 different types of HPV, and the vaccine isn’t able to protect against all of them. There are actually a few different HPV vaccines that are available, and each one protects against between 2 and 9 types of HPV. The most common cancer-causing strains are HPV 16 and 18, and these are included in all of the HPV vaccines. Most of the vaccines also protect against certain strains that cause genital warts.

Can the HPV vaccine cause HPV?

The HPV vaccine is not made up of the whole HPV virus, but only a part of the virus. Because of this, it’s not possible for the vaccine to cause HPV. We are sometimes asked, “Can the HPV vaccine cause warts?” or “Can the HPV vaccine cause cervical cancer?” The answer is no, there’s no need to worry about this. The HPV vaccine cannot cause you to get infected with HPV.

Can I still get HPV even if I had the vaccine?

No vaccine is 100% perfect. It’s not completely impossible that you could still get HPV after the vaccine. This could happen because you got exposed to one of the strains that’s not included in the vaccine that you received, so you weren’t protected against it. It’s also not impossible to get a breakthrough infection, meaning that you get HPV even though you’re vaccinated. The vaccine is extremely effective at preventing HPV infection, and the chance of getting HPV with the vaccine is far lower than without it. However, vaccines are never perfect, and there is a small chance that you will get HPV even after having the vaccine.

Is the HPV vaccine only for females?

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer associated with HPV, and only females are at risk for this type of cancer. However, the HPV vaccine is definitely not only intended for females. Males should strongly consider getting this vaccine as well. One reason is that men can also get cancer from certain strains of HPV. Cancers of the penis, anus, and throat can occur due to this virus, and getting the HPV vaccine will help to prevent these.

In addition, men should consider getting the HPV vaccine to protect them from genital warts. Although genital warts aren’t deadly, they can be uncomfortable and can cause significant psychological distress. Getting the HPV vaccine helps to prevent them in both men and women.

Can you get the HPV vaccine if you are pregnant?

The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. There are no known risks associated with getting this vaccine during pregnancy, but not enough research has been done to be sure that it’s safe. If you’re pregnant, it’s recommended that you wait until after having the baby to consider getting the HPV vaccine.

How long does the HPV shot last?

The HPV vaccine has only been in use since 2006, but the research that has been done since that time indicates that the vaccine offers long-lasting protection against HPV. Studies have shown that ten years after getting the vaccine, the protection it provides against HPV infection is still very strong. Although it’s possible that protection could wane as people get older, it appears that the protection offered by this vaccine will last for many years, and maybe for a person’s whole life.

At what age do you get the HPV vaccine?

The general recommendation is to get this vaccine at age 11 or 12, although the first dose can be given as young as age 9. The intention is for people to get the vaccine before they become sexually active. While nearly all parents hope that their young teenagers will wait to have sex, the truth is that we can’t possibly know ahead of time who will choose to have sex at what age. By vaccinating people against HPV while they’re preteens, this helps to ensure that the vaccine comes before sexual activity, at least for the vast majority of people.

The vaccine is recommended for all people up to age 26. If you’re age 26 or younger and haven’t yet been vaccinated against HPV, then it’s recommended that you go ahead and get the vaccine. If you’re age 27 to 45, it might be recommended in some cases, but not always. This is because most people in this age group have already been exposed to HPV, and so the vaccine is not helpful. However, there are certain cases where it might be recommended, so you can talk with your doctor about this.

How do I know if I got the HPV vaccine?

If you aren’t sure whether you got the HPV vaccine, the only way to find out is to check your vaccination records. You can get these from the doctor that you went to as a preteen and teenager. Your parents may be able to help you find and contact the doctor’s office.

If you can’t find out whether you’ve already had the HPV vaccine, one option is to go ahead and get the vaccine. In case you did have it when you were younger, extra doses are not known to have negative effects.

Sources

Arbyn M, Xu L. Efficacy and safety of prophylactic HPV vaccines: a Cochrane review of randomized trials. Expert Rev Vaccines 2018 Dec;17(12):1085-1091. doi: 10.1080/14760584.2018.1548282

Chelimo C, Wouldes TA, et al. Risk factors for and prevention of human papillomaviruses (HPV), genital warts and cervical cancer. J Infect 2013 Mar;66(3):207-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2012.10.024

HPV Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/about-hpv.html. Accessed 11 Feb 2022

HPV Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine-for-hpv.html. Accessed 11 Feb 2022

Meites E, Szilagyi PG, et al. Human Papillomavirus Vaccination for Adults: Updated Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019 Aug 16;68(32):698-702. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6832a3

Szymonowicz KA, Chen J. Biological and clinical aspects of HPV-related cancers. Cancer Biol Med 2020 Nov 15;17(4):864-878. doi: 10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2020.0370


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