Questions & Answers
Human Papillomavirus - The Vaccine
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  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.