Should You Get an HPV Vaccine?
Published June 26, 2020
Human papillomavirus (HPV) remains one of the most common sexually-transmitted diseases in the US. In fact, the CDC estimates about 79 million Americans have HPV. It’s so easily transmitted that if you are sexually active, you’ll probably catch it at some point.
Though most HPV infections go away on its own, some can lead to cervical and penile cancers. As such, these infections can be fatal if not prevented early on.
To prevent the spread of HPV, the CDC recommends that teens be vaccinated as early as 11 or 12 years old. The older you get, the greater your exposure to sexual activities. As such, you are more prone to getting HPV.
In the US, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved only three HPV vaccines. These are Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. Each of them targets specific types of HPV strains. But Gardasil 9 is deemed to be the most effective of the bunch and is most widely used.
Depending on your age, these vaccines are administered in a series of 2 to 3 injections over six months. You can get vaccinated up until the age of 45.
Despite the benefits of HPV vaccines, it has its disadvantages. This is why many are still on the fence about getting an HPV vaccine.
To help you understand the risks and advantages, we compiled the pros and cons of HPV vaccines.
There are many reasons why you should get an HPV vaccine. The most compelling of which is to save your and other people’s life.
1. It Prevents Widespread Transmission of the Virus
There are over 150 documented types of HPV strains to date. Forty of them can affect your genital areas, mouth, and throat. It spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. This is why sexual transmission is the most common way of passing the virus to others.
It usually takes a few months to a couple of years before HPV symptoms start to show up. During that time, you could have unknowingly infected several people. Or if your partner has it, you could have been infected and only know about it after a few months.
Though the vaccines don’t protect you from all HPV strains, it can significantly slow down its transmission.
2. It Protects Against Certain Types of Cancers
Some strains like HPV 16 and 18 are associated with various types of cancers such as:
These two strains account for more than 70% of cervical cancers and about 40% to 50% of all penile tumors. Studies also show that it can cause anal and male oropharyngeal cancers. The cancers caused by these strains often lead to high morbidity and mortality rates.
All three of the FDA-approved vaccines offer protection against HPV 16 and 18, though at varying levels.
3. It’s Proven to Prevent HPV-Caused Genital Warts
Even if most genital warts are not life-threatening, it can still cause discomfort. This is another reason why you should get vaccinated.
Gardasil 9, one of the vaccines approved by the FDA, is not only effective against cervical cancer-causing strains. It can also protect you from HPV types 11 and 6 – the strains responsible for over 90% of reported genital warts cases.
1. It Has Potential Side Effects
Every type of vaccine (or medicine for that matter) has potential side effects. And HPV vaccines are no exceptions.
However, there is yet no conclusive proof that links any serious side effects to these vaccines. It has potential side effects, yes, but these are usually mild or moderate. Plus, it’s not that common.
If you ever feel any side effects, it’s usually limited to:
- slight fever
- pain or swelling at the injection area
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- abdominal pains
If you get the vaccine and these symptoms persist, you should talk to your doctor.
2. It Does Not Protect You From All Types of HPV Strains
Though they are effective against certain types of HPV, it does not provide blanket protection against the virus. Thus, you can still be infected with HPV. But it’s most likely the type that goes away on its own without the need for any medical intervention.
To sum up, the benefits of getting an HPV vaccine far outweighs the risk. It does not matter if you’re young or old, you need to get vaccinated. The side effects are bearable if you do. But the consequences could be fatal if you don’t.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.