HPV Vaccine: A Mini Factsheet To Understand Its Importance And Benefits

Did you know that the HPV group of viruses that causes STDs and cervical cancer infects 14 million people yearly? But, we can easily prevent the spread of these diseases by getting vaccinated. To begin with, HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. If a high-risk HPV infection remains undetected for several years, it may lead to abnormalities in normal cells. When the infection is not treated, it worsens and gradually leads to cancer. However, on the good side, it is also evident that HPV vaccines are the safest and provide the most efficient protection against HPV infection.   

Scientific evidence shows that HPV infection is quite common among sexually active adults. Although the number of reported cases of HPV has dramatically increased in recent years, we rarely ‘talk’ about diseases caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Even today, such ‘talks’ continues to be treated as ‘uncomfortable’ topics of discussion.

It is the right time to familiarize ourselves with HPV and HPV vaccines. Let’s understand what it is, why it is important, and the benefits.

What Is HPV and Why Is It a Problem?

HPV is the Human Papilloma Virus and includes its various strains. An HPV infection can spread through sexual activity and a few kinds of skin-to-skin contact. It can cause genital warts (STDs) and cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, mouth, and throat.

What is the importance of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?

As the term indicates, the HPV vaccine prevents diseases caused by human papillomavirus. The role of the vaccine is to strengthen the immune system to fight the virus and serve as a safeguard against these life-threatening conditions.

Why should I get the HPV vaccine? What are its benefits?

There are various types of HPV strains like 6,11,16,18 etc. Different strains cause different set of diseases and complications. The vaccine helps in preventing these diseases associated with HPV infection. In any case, predicting who may develop cancer following an HPV infection is tough. Hence, a good plan to minimize the chances of getting diseases, especially cervical cancer, is to get the HPV vaccination.

How do people get infected with HPV?

If someone has oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected person, they can become infected.

But even without having sex, HPV can spread through close genital-to-genital contact.

Are there various HPV vaccinations on the market?

There are three distinct HPV vaccines available- Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9. The one you receive may depend on the cost as all three are differently priced and expensive and also on where you stay because they are not all easily accessible. In any case, getting the vaccination is a must.

With the recent approval to the Serum Institute of India for the sale of the made-in-India Quadrivalent HPV vaccine- Cervavac, we hope the availability improves and cost decreases to make it more accessible and affordable.

How old must a person be to receive the HPV vaccine?

The vaccination license in India is from 9 to 45 years of age. However, it is usually advised to females between 9-26 years of age, with 9-14 years is the ideal age to get vaccinated as ideally, people should receive the vaccine before engaging in their first sexual activity, else the efficacy may be slightly reduced. However, it is not a rule; hence, if you are sexually active and not vaccinated, getting the vaccine will increase your immunity against the HPV virus and help prevent diseases, including cervical cancer.

What is the dose of the vaccination?

Based on a person’s age, doctors decide the dosage of the vaccine.

  • Younger patients (9-14 years) receive two doses spread at least six months apart.
  • People over 15 receive three doses spread out over six months.
  • People with weak immune systems/ immunocompromised receive three doses regardless of age.

Does Gender or sexual orientation change the need for the HPV vaccine?

No matter what their sexual orientation is, both men and women should get the HPV vaccine. Gender-neutral vaccinations are approved, recommended, and used in various countries, including the USA. However, in India, it is used only in females, and we await recommendations for use in men.

What side effects can the HPV vaccine cause?

The HPV vaccine may produce redness, swelling, low-grade fever, or pain in the area where the doctor administers the shot.

Sometimes, it can make people faint, but this seldom happens. Your doctor may also ask you to remain seated for several minutes after the shot to ensure you are alright.

Does the HPV vaccine cause serious health problems?

You may have come across unverified claims that the HPV vaccine can harm your health, but none are scientifically proven. Many studies have demonstrated that such unverified claims are far from the truth.

Always remember that your doctor is your best guide if you have any queries concerning the vaccine and its side effects.

Will the HPV vaccine always be effective?

The efficacy of the vaccine is seen to be 96-98%. Hence, it effectively prevents diseases caused by an HPV infection that can lead to vaginal and cervical cancer.

Additionally, it reduces the risk of developing other cancers and genital warts.

Hence, vaccination is the best strategy to reduce the risk of diseases like cervical cancer and genital warts.

Does the HPV vaccine protect against other sexually transmitted diseases(STDs)?

No. The HPV vaccine does not prevent the spreading of other sexually transmitted infections. It is always a good option to use a condom to prevent contracting or spreading STDs.

Should I go for a cervical cancer screening after getting the HPV vaccine?

Yes, you must go for the cervical cancer screening. Your doctor may use Pap tests or HPV testing or both as screening to check for cancerous cells in the cervix and precancerous cells with the potential to develop into cancer.

Although the likelihood of developing cervical cancer decreases significantly after receiving the HPV vaccine, it does not entirely safeguard you 100%.

Simply put, sexual contact, whether it be anal, vaginal, or oral, can spread HPV. Ideally, individuals should receive the vaccine before starting any form of sexual activity and those who have already contracted one or more HPV types may still be protected from other HPV strains or increase their immunity against the existing strains. Not only is the HPV vaccine recommended as the safest protective measure, but its benefits greatly exceed any potential risk.

If you experience any queries regarding the HPV vaccine, don’t delay consulting your gynecologist.

To know more about the vaccination, book an appointment with a doctor by contacting us at +91-9540 114 114.

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Published by
SSB Heart and Multispecialty Hospital