HPV Prevention: HPV Vaccine

You don't necessarily have to be vaccinated to lower your chances of getting HPV; limiting the number of sexual partners you have and choosing a sexual partner who has had few partners both help in lowering your chances of getting HPV. But the only way to guarantee that you won't contract HPV is to practice abstinence or to be vaccinated.

The HPV Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine against HPV in June 2006 that can prevent four different types of HPV in women. The vaccine targets HPV types 6 and 11, which cause about 90 percent of genital warts, and HPV types 16 and 18, which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

The vaccine however does not protect against less common types of HPV, and women who are vaccinated are still advised to have regular pap tests to detect precancerous changes in the cervix. Also, the vaccine is only effective when it is given before a woman becomes infected.

The drug has been approved for girls and women ages 9-26, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that girls between the ages of 11 and 12 are the best candidates for the vaccine because it is important to be vaccinated before becoming sexually active. However any woman between 9 and 26 is eligible for the shots.

The vaccine is given in three different shots two months apart. The only side effects witnessed are those common for any vaccine, mainly a slight fever and an irritation on the skin where the shot was given. Since the vaccine is new, it's not known how long the protection lasts.

Studies are currently being conducted to see how well the vaccine works on women over 26 and for boys and also in men.