The HPV vaccine protects against the most common strains of HPV that cause genital warts and cancer. Since 2006, vaccination has been available for young people in most developed countries. This is slowly reducing the percentage of the population with genital warts or cancers caused by HPV. As the virus that causes bothersome genital warts is extremely common, naturally there are age limit guidelines for the vaccine. To find out more about the vaccine and if it is an option for you, check out our in-depth overview below.
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Why get vaccinated against HPV?
The HPV vaccine protects against the worst types of HPV. Vaccinations are an important part of eliminating a virus that more than 2/3rds of the world’s sexually active population have at any given time. While cancer typically has a variety of causes, there are several cancers that are almost exclusively caused by the human papillomavirus.
Additionally, genital warts are an embarrassing and potentially painful skin problem. While warts do not threaten your health, they provide some risk and removal treatments can become very costly. Are genital warts contagious? Check the answer here.
The genital wart vaccine and the HPV vaccine are one and the same. You will not need multiple vaccinations to protect against both. The three-dose shot schedule also does not separate protections for specific complications between them. Multiple doses are needed to ensure your body has built up sufficient antibodies to fight the virus.
Does the HPV vaccine prevent genital warts?
The most recent version of the HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil 9, does prevent almost all genital-warts cases in those vaccinated before being exposed to HPV. HPV strains 6 and 11 are responsible for more than ninety persent of genital warts. As far as the vaccine is effective against 6 and 11, the chances of getting genital warts despite vaccination are relatively low. While 10% may seem like a considerable chance, the strains that can cause that 10% of infections are much rarer in the adult population.
The vaccine for genital warts offers your best protection against contracting genital warts, and additionally gives you significant protection against certain types of cancers. This includes all types of genital warts including, anal, penile, vulvar, external and internal. To learn more about vaginal warts, check out this additional information.
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
Vaccination with the most recent HPV vaccine against warts is recommended for both girls and boys between the ages of eleven and twelve. The reason for this early protection is because ideally it should be done before any sexual activity, and thus opportunity for exposure. While preferential, young children are not the only population group allowed to receive the vaccine. It may also be given to boys, girls, women and men from nine years old to 26 years old. There is no official limit, but as this is the age recommendation many doctors will be hesitant to provide vaccination outside of these guidelines.
Generally there are few limitations on who should not receive it.
It is suggested not to receive vaccination against genital warts for these people:
- Women who are pregnant.
- Anyone with a severe allergy to yeast.
- Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to previous dosage of the vaccine.
- Those allergic to polysorbate 80.
- Current immune system impairment such as an HIV infection or severe illness.
Safety and effectiveness
One of the biggest questions and concerns people have about the HPV vaccine is whether it can actually give you HPV. The answer is no. It is impossible for the HPV vaccine to ever give you human papillomavirus. This is because it does not contain any live virus or even the complete dead virus. The HPV-related contents are proteins which can help you build antibodies but can never cause infection. The safety concerns are low, with most side effects minimal cases of brief dizziness, nausea and headache. No serious side effects have been associated with Gardasil 9, the wart vaccine.
While not everyone past the recommended age guidelines will be able to get the vaccine, it never hurts to inquire with your primary care physician. He or she can make the decision based on your likelihood of exposure as well as your age.
Remember that the risk of acquiring HPV after age 30 falls at a high rate, so use your best judgement on your need.
The effectiveness of vaccination is very high when children receive all 3 doses over a six month period. When any dose is skipped or if all three shots are not taken, the effectiveness can drop considerably. Additionally, protection has been shown to be much stronger when vaccines are given at a young age, allowing several years before potential exposure. Older adults who are receiving it for the first time suffer a small, but not serious drop in the protective benefits.
Some individuals believe that post-exposure vaccination can somehow help prevent the development of genital warts. This is untrue as Gardasil cannot treat or prevent warts and cancer from developing in anyone who is already infected with HPV. This is why early vaccination remains important, your only chance at defense against these complications of infection is a pre-exposure vaccine. For a thorough explanation of what causes genital warts, review this article.
Does the HPV vaccine protect against cervical cancer?
Yes, it protects against most cases of cervical cancer. Up to 75% of cervical and vaginal cancers have been linked to the virus, and vaccination protects against the seven most common variants that cause these cancers. It is of course not an all-in-one protection as vaginal, vulvar and cervical cancers can be caused by other means, including cancer that can be easily spread from other parts of your body. However, the HPV vaccine is your best defense against the number one cause of these specific cancers.
While cervical cancer doesn’t impact men, anal cancer does. It effects both men and women, and 90% of all anal cancers stem from an HPV infection. Clearly vaccination is well worth it to both men and women to both decrease the chance of developing cancer, as well as genital warts. So in total, the vaccine protects against warts and three types of cancer for women and warts along with anal cancer for men. As with all vaccines, there are no guarantees of full protection or defenses against HPV strains that are not one of the nine currently targeted by Gardasil.
Since its debut in 2006, vaccination against HPV has become a standard recommendation for boys and girls in the United States and most other advanced countries. The benefits of the HPV vaccine in the fight against genital warts and certain types of cancer can not be overstated. It is the only way to protect yourself against this common disease and the most common related cancers. There are no known significant risks for taking it and is expected to be effective for your entire life if all required doses are taken as scheduled.