Questions & Answers
Human Papillomavirus - The Vaccine
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Questions
Answers

Immunization

  1. What types of vaccines are available?

    Merck & Company's vaccine, Gardasil, is a quadravalent vaccine that is protective against HPV strains 6, 11, 16 and 18, which can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June of 2006.

    GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine, Cervarix, is a bivalent non-infectious recombinant, AS04-adjuvanted vaccine that is protective against strains 16 and 18 HPV viruses, which can lead to cervical cancer. Cervarix was approved by the FDA in October of 2009.



  2. Who is eligible to receive this vaccine?
    In October 2009 Gardasil's vaccine target group was increased to include males and females 9-26 years of age. Cervarix is approved for women 10-25 years of age.

  3. What side effects have been reported with this vaccine?
    The most common side effects noted are soreness, swelling and itching at the injection site. Possible systemic reactions include low grade fever and headache. Fainting has been occasionally reported after receipt of vaccine so all vaccine recipients should wait at least 15 minutes after vaccination.

    Some women have also reported headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and generalized muscle pain after vaccination.

  4. Can the vaccines protect you if you've already been exposed to Human Papillomavirus?
    There was no clear evidence of protection from disease caused by HPV strains for which subjects were already exposed. Individuals can benefit from immunization protection against strains of HPV not previously exposed to.

  5. How long does the vaccine protection last? Will a booster shot be needed?
    The length of vaccine protection is usually not known when a vaccine is first introduced. More research is being done to find out how long protection will last, and if a booster dose will be needed in the future.

  6. Can the vaccine cause Human Papillomavirus?
    Gardasil and Cervarix are not live-virus vaccines and can not cause a HPV infection.

  7. Will girls/women who have been vaccinated still need cervical cancer screenings?
    Yes. Because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. About 30% of all cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine. Since this is a multi dose vaccine, it is possible that women will not get all three required doses or may not get them on the correct time schedule resulting in a weakened response. This could possibly leave them susceptible to developing cervical cancer.

  8. Does HPV vaccine cause any side effects that I need to know about before I decide to get the vaccine?
    The most common side effect associated with HPV vaccine is soreness in the arm where the shot was given. Some women have also reported headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and generalized muscle pain after vaccination.

Administration

  1. How is this vaccine administered?

    Gardasil is administered intramuscularly as 3 separate 0.5-mL doses according to the following schedule: first dose at elected date; second dose: 2 months after the first dose; third dose: 6 months after the first dose.

    Cervarix is administered intramuscularly as 3 separate 0.5-mL doses according to the following schedule; first dose at elected date; second dose: 1 month after the first; third dose: 6 months after the first dose.

    Each vaccine series should be completed using the same product; you can not use HPV vaccines interchangeably within the 3 dose series.



  2. If I think a service member has been exposed to Human Papillomavirus, what should I do?
    A pap smear and vaccination series (if within the DoD policy age parameters and not previously immunized) should be suggested. Reinforcement of the need for yearly pap smears for women should also occur. Both men and women should be counseled on monogamous relationships, reducing sexual partners and the proper use of barrier protection to prevent future STD infections.

Contraindications

  1. Who should NOT receive the Human Papillomavirus vaccine?
    Those who have demonstrated hypersensitivity to the any of the vaccine components or a previous dose of vaccine should be referred to their healthcare provider for possible exemptions. Gardasil should not be administered to people with a history of a severe allergic reaction to yeast (a vaccine component). Cervarix pre-filled syringes should not be administered to people with a hypersensitivity to latex. The HPV vaccines are not recommended for use in pregnant women.

  2. What about pregnant or breastfeeding women?
    HPV vaccine is not recommended for use in pregnant women. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when vaccines is administered to a nursing woman.

  3. Can I still receive HPV vaccine if I am already sexually active?
    Yes you can still receive HPV vaccine. However, sexually active females may get less protection and benefit from the HPV vaccine because they may have already been exposed to the HPV virus.

    The vaccine is currently approved for females aged 9-26 years old. For individual questions about the HPV vaccine you may contact a MILVAX-VHCN healthcare provider or send us an email message using our Ask VHC secure messaging system.

  4. Am I too old to get the HPV vaccination?
    HPV vaccine is currently indicated for use in females aged 9 through 26 years. This is because vaccine safety and protection studies have been done specifically for this population. If you have more questions about age indications, you may contact a MILVAX-VHCN healthcare provider or send us an email message using our Ask VHC secure messaging system.