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HPV Vaccine for cervical cancer

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HPV infection

HPV- Human papillomavirus is the main causative agent of the HPV infection. HPV infection is sexually transmitted and it affects in the genital areas of both men and women which could be the anus, cervix, vagina, vulva and penis. The potential health threats posed by this virus could be genital warts, cervical cancer in women and other types of genital cancer.

The symptoms of the HPV infection in women go unnoticed initially, however later they gain prominence with abnormal vaginal bleeding during periods, sex and even after menopause.

A brief on HPV Vaccine: The only means by which HPV infection can be prevented is through vaccination. Primarily two HPV vaccines are available, viz. Cervarix and Gardasil, which are safe and effective. The vaccine is given to boys and girls in 11 and 12 years of age, wherein 3 shots are given over six months.

It’s important to note that the vaccine is given to women mainly for protecting against cervical cancer. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the two strains of virus that cause cervical cancer. Thus, women who have had this vaccine in childhood are immune to cervical cancer.

What are the doses of HPV vaccine for cervical cancer?

Three doses of vaccine is necessary to offer maximum protection against the virus and therefore, it’s a must that the dose is completed.

It’s given in the following order:

1st dose- now

2nd dose- 2 months from the first dose

3rd dose- 6 months from the first dose

Which Girls must be Immunized with HPV vaccine and Why?

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The vaccine is most effective when it is given to girls/women who have not been exposed to sexual activity.  

HPV vaccination begins in the age of 9. Most commonly it’s administered to girls in the age group of 11-13 years. However, women who have missed the shots can also be given 13 through 26 years of age. This is the maximum age limit because the vaccine doesn’t immunize women against HPV cervical cancer after this age. It could even be the case that once you have been exposed to multiple strains of the virus during later age (25-26), the vaccine would protect you from specific strains only.

Women who have not been immunized are highly susceptible to HPV infection and therefore, they need to undergo cervical cancer screening test to detect the cancer and get the necessary treatment.

Which women cannot get HPV vaccine?

As said before, getting vaccinated after the age of 26 is of no use. Similarly, the vaccine is not given to pregnant women. They can get the vaccine after delivery of the baby and if they are below 26 years of age.

Furthermore, one needs to consult with doctor if she is suffering from any kind of illness (e.g. thrombocytopenia), has weak immune system, is under medication or is allergic to latex, yeast, etc.

Side Effects of HPV vaccine for Cervical Cancer

The side effects are very normal just as any other vaccine injection. The local site might swell and become sore. One might suffer from low grade fever and a little bit of dizziness. Some more symptoms that might show up after getting the vaccine could be upper respiratory tract infection, coughing, stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and joint pain.

Any serious side effects are very rare; in such case one might develop anaphylactic reaction due to severe allergy. Rush for medical help immediately.

How long does the protection last?

Women who have completed the 3 doses correctly are immunized for life time. The effectiveness of cervical cancer HPV vaccine does not weaken over time.  

There should not be any question regarding the safety of HPV vaccine for cervical cancer because they are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are 100% safe. Also we insist you practise safe and protected sex to reduce chances of HPV infection. Get your daughter vaccinated in the right age to ensure immunity against cervical cancer.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 03, 2015

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