HPV Vaccine: Who Should Get it and When?
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are still generally perceived as a taboo topic by much of society. In order to spread awareness and hopefully also lift the stigma associated with STI’s, today we are covering the human papillomavirus, otherwise known as HPV—the most common STI in the United States.
What is HPV?
The human papillomaviruses are a group of over 100 different virus types and strains that infect human skin and mucus membranes. HPV is the most common STI in the U.S. with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stating that around “14 million people become newly infected each year,” and that nearly all sexually active people will get the virus at some point in their lives. The virus and its many strains can have many effects on the body including warts and even numerous cancers.
Often HPV is considered a women’s only issue, but that is not at all the case. The CDC reports that men are generally more at risk for HPV and are significantly more at risk for oral HPV: 11.5% of men age 18 to 69 compared to 3.3% of women.
In discussing HPV-associated cancers, the CDC states that cervical cancer is the most common for women, while oropharyngeal (throat) cancers are most common in men. Overall, the CDC sites that “more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60% of penile cancers,” are thought to be the result of HPV.
How effective is the vaccine?
Three approved vaccines prevent varying types of the virus. The most well know is Gardasil, which prevents types 6, 11, 16, and 18. There is also Cervarix, which just prevents types 16 and 18, and Gardasil 9, which prevents 6, 11, 16, and 18 as well as 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
As far as effectiveness goes, trials leading up to the approval of Gardasil and Cervarix found that they were nearly 100% effective, whereas the trials before the approval of Gardasil 9 found it to be closer to 97% effective.
Who should get it and when?
The CDC’s base recommendation suggests that women through the age of 26 and men through the age of 21 receive the vaccine. They go into more detailed recommendations for different sexual lifestyles and conditions toward the end of their HPV page for parents.
Should I get it?
While we recommend following the guidelines of the CDC, this vaccine is considered optional and we here at Surgical Associates of Grinnell support that this is a personal decision. We recommend consulting with your primary care provider or contacting our team to discuss the best care for you!