Gardasil is the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). In June 2006, Gardasil was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine is given in three shots over six months. The manufacturer recommends the vaccine for use on 11 and 12 year old girls. They also recommend it for girls and women age 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series.
Ideally, girls/women should get this vaccine before their first sexual contact when they could be exposed to HPV. This is because the vaccine prevents disease in girls/women who have not previously acquired one or more types of HPV prevented by the vaccine.
This vaccine targets the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine is highly effective in preventing those types of HPV and related diseases in young women.
The vaccine is less effective in preventing HPV-related disease in young women who have already been exposed to one or more HPV types. That is because the vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections or the diseases they may cause. It can only prevent HPV before a person gets it.
How long does vaccine protection last? Will a booster shot be needed?
Research suggests that vaccine protection will last a long time. More research is being done to find out if women will need a booster vaccine many years after getting vaccinated to boost protection.
What does the vaccine not protect against?
The vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV— so it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests). Also, the vaccine does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Safety of the HPV vaccine
This vaccine has been licensed by the FDA and approved by CDC as safe and effective. It was studied in thousands of females (ages 9 through 26 years) around the world and its safety continues to be monitored by CDC and the FDA. Studies have found no serious side effects. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm (where the shot is given). There have recently been some reports of fainting in teens after they got the vaccine. For this reason, it is recommended that patients wait in their doctor’s office for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.
Cost and Paying for the HPV vaccine
The retail price of the vaccine is about $125 per dose ($375 for full series).
Is the HPV vaccine covered by insurance plans?
While some insurance companies may cover the vaccine, others may not. Most large insurance plans usually cover the costs of recommended vaccines.
How can I get help paying for the vaccine?
Children age 18 and younger may be eligible to get vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, for free through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program if they are: Medicaid eligible; uninsured; or American Indian or Alaska Native. Doctors may charge a small fee to give each shot. However VFC vaccines cannot be denied to an eligible child if the family cannot afford the fee.
Some states also provide free or low-cost vaccines at public health department clinics to people without health insurance coverage for vaccines. Contact your State Health Department to see if your state has such a program.
What vaccinated girls/women need to know
Women will still need regular cervical cancer screening (Pap tests) because the vaccine will NOT protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. Also, women who got the vaccine after becoming sexually active may not get the full benefit of the vaccine if they had already acquired HPV.
Other ways to prevent HPV and Cervical Cancer
Another HPV vaccine is now being considered for licensure by the FDA. This vaccine would protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, but it would not protect against genital warts.
Are there other ways to prevent cervical cancer?
Regular cervical cancer screening and follow-up can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix before they turn into cancer. The HPV test can tell if a woman has HPV on her cervix. This test can be used with the Pap test to help your doctor determine next steps in cervical cancer screening.
Are there other ways to prevent HPV?
The only sure way to prevent HPV is to abstain from all sexual activity. For those who are sexually active, condoms may lower the chances of getting HPV, if used all the time and the right way. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases (genital warts and cervical cancer). But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom—so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.
For free information about cervical cancer, see the medical malpractice attorneys of Pennsylvania. We specialize in cervical cancer cases, especially those in which cervical cancer was missed or misdiagnosed. Serving Pittsburgh, Washington, Erie, Beaver, Uniontown, Greensburg, Altoona, and Western Pennsylvania.
Centers for Disease Control - HPV Vaccine Questions and Answers
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA News: FDA Licenses New Vaccine for Prevention of Cervical Cancer and Other Diseases in Females Caused by Human Papillomavirus