HPV vaccines prevent serious health problems, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer and other cancers caused by HPV (human Papilloma Virus). In addition to cancer, HPV can also cause other health problems, such as genital warts. HPV is a common virus that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity with another person. It is possible to have HPV without knowing it, so it is possible to unknowingly spread HPV to another person. Safe, effective vaccines are available to protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV and the health problems that the virus can cause.
What HPV vaccines are available in the United States?
Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the FDA and recommended by CDC. These vaccines are Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (made by Merck).
How are the two HPV vaccines similar?
- Both vaccines are very safe.
- Both vaccines are made with very small parts of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that cannot cause infection.
- Both vaccines are given as shots and require 3 doses.
- Both vaccines are very effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers in women.
How are the two HPV vaccines different?
- Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) protects against HPV types 6 and 11 the types that cause most genital warts in males and females.
- Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) has been tested and licensed for use in males.
- Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) has been tested and shown to protect against cancers of the anus.
- The vaccines have different adjuvants—a substance that is added to the vaccine to increase the body’s immune response.
Who should get HPV vaccine?
Gardasil is also licensed, safe, and effective for males ages 9 through 26 years. Boys and young men may choose to get this vaccine to prevent genital warts, and anal cancer.
People who have already had sexual contact before getting all 3 doses of an HPV vaccine might still benefit if they were not infected before vaccination with the HPV types included in the vaccine they received. The best way to be sure that a person gets the most benefit from HPV vaccination is to complete all three doses before sexual activity begins.
Why is Gardasil not on the immunization schedule for boys and men?
CDC did not add this vaccine to the recommended immunization schedules for males in these age groups because studies suggest that the best way to prevent the most disease due to HPV is to vaccinate as many girls and women as possible. Parents of boys can decide if Gardasil is right for their sons by talking with their sons’ healthcare providers. Young men can also discuss this vaccine with their doctors.
How can I learn more?
- Ask your doctor or nurse. They can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
- Contact the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch
- Call 1-866-358-2966
- Contact the California Department of Public Health
- Call 1-916-558-1784
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Call 1-800-232-4636
- Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines
Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HPV Vaccine – Questions & Answers: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/vac-faqs.htm