HPV Vaccinations

HPV Vaccination

HPV Vaccination GwinnettHuman papillomavirus (commonly known as HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and is associated with the development of several different forms of cancer, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, and oropharyngeal cancer, as well as with the growth of genital warts. Each year in the United States, HPV is believed to cause approximately 2,600 cases of vulvar and vaginal cancer, 4,300 cases of anal cancer, 360,000 cases of genital warts, and more than 8,400 cases of oropharyngeal cancer. Regular cervical cancer screening exams, or Pap smears, can often detect the various forms of cancer even before any outward signs or symptoms are evident, but in many cases the incidence of these cancers can also be significantly reduced through the use of HPV vaccination.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both strongly recommend that women between the ages of 9 and 26 be vaccinated against Human papillomavirus, or HPV. The vaccine may be less effective in individuals who have been exposed to HPV before vaccination than in individuals who were HPV naive at the time of vaccination, so it is recommended that the initial dose be administered at the target age of 11-12 years. Full vaccination requires three doses, with a minimum interval of four weeks between the first and second dose and twelve weeks between the second and third dose. However if the vaccine schedule is interrupted, the series does not need to be restarted, regardless of the length of time between doses. A “catch up” vaccination is recommended for adolescents and young women aged 13–26 years who have not already received the vaccine or completed the series.

As of November, 2015, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System reported that more than 57 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed, and there are currently no data to suggest that there are any severe side effects or adverse reactions linked to vaccination. However there are some precautions that should be taken into consideration:


  • Women should generally try to avoid undergoing HPV vaccination during a pregnancy, as the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine has not been specifically tested in pregnant women. However, in cases where inadvertent administration of the vaccine during pregnancy has occurred, no adverse outcomes attributable to the vaccine have been reported.
  • The presence of immunosuppression, like that experienced in patients with HIV infection or organ transplantation, is not necessarily a contraindication to HPV vaccination, but the immune response may be less robust in the immunocompromised patient.
  • Human papillomavirus vaccines are not currently approved for use in the United States on women older than 26 years of age. However off-label use may be indicated on a case-by-case basis when vaccination may provide some marginal benefit for a specific patient.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) is actually a group of more than 120 different viruses comprising 40 distinct genotypes, and unfortunately as many as 30% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV genotypes that are not vaccine preventable. Therefore it is important to understand that receiving the prescribed three HPV vaccine doses does not eliminate the importance of regular screenings for cervical cancer, even in those vaccinated before the onset of sexual activity. Even women who are vaccinated against HPV should still undergo regularly scheduled Pap testing every one to three years, depending on their age and previous medical history.


HPV Vaccination FAQs

How effective is the HPV vaccine?
Studies show that getting all three doses of the HPV vaccine before you are sexually active can reduce your risk of getting certain types of HPV-related cancer by up to 99%. If you have previously had sex, you may already have been infected with one or more types of HPV, but the vaccine may help protect you against the other types of HPV included in the vaccine.

Can an HPV vaccine help me if I have already been infected?
Unfortunately no, a vaccine works by empowering your body’s natural immune system to prevent a future infection. It cannot treat the disease once the infection has already occurred. However, there are approximately 40 different strains of HPV, and even if you are infected by one, a vaccine can certainly help protect you from getting another type. Dr. Gould can recommend other treatments for genital warts and for cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer.

Should men get vaccinated against human papillomavirus?
Men cannot develop cervical cancer, but approximately 35% of all cases of anal cancer and 80% of all cases of oropharyngeal cancer do occur in male patients. The HPV vaccine is approved for males ages 9 through 26 and may prevent genital warts and anal cancer, and can significantly reduce the likelihood of spreading HPV to sexual partners.

Does the HPV vaccine cause any side effects?
The most common side effect of the HPV vaccine is soreness and redness at the injection site and some patients may experience brief periods of light-headedness, dizziness, headache, or nausea immediately after receiving the injection. As of 2015, more than 57 million people have been vaccinated against HPV and there have been no reports of severe side effects or bad reactions to the vaccine.


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