HPV vaccine and your daughter

February 20, 2008 8:54:55 PM PST
It's a topic every mom needs to think about. Dr. Leah Millheiser from Stanford University's Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, gives us the latest information on the pros ands cons of the vaccine against HPV, the Human Papilloma-Virus.

For more information: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv

From Dr. Leah Millheiser, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University:

FAQ About the HPV Vaccine

What is the human papilloma virus?

  • It is a virus that can affect either the skin or mucous membranes. There are over 100 subtypes of the virus. Approximately 30 subtypes affect the male and female genital tract.
  • It is passed through genital contact
  • This virus can cause genital warts and cervical cancer in females.
  • Low risk human papilloma virus leads to genital warts (pink or flesh-toned "bumps" on the genital area)
  • High risk human papilloma virus can cause both precancerous cervical lesions and cervical cancer. This is typically diagnosed on routine pap smear.
  • Persistent infection with high risk human papilloma virus can lead to cervical cancer (the second most common cancer in women worldwide)
  • Most human papilloma virus infections are asymptomatic and clear on their own
What is the typical age of exposure to the human papilloma virus in females?
  • 15-25; however, it is estimated that 75% of sexually active females will contract the virus by the age of 50
What is the human papilloma virus vaccine?
  • Gardasil is a virus-like particle vaccine which does not contain active virus in it. It protects against human papilloma virus subtypes 6,11,16,18
  • There are approximately 100 subtypes of the human papilloma virus. The vaccine protects against the four most common subtypes that affect the genital tract of women.
  • Subtypes 6 and 11 cause approximately 90% of genital warts
  • Subtypes 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancer
Who should get the vaccine?
  • The vaccine is indicated for females aged 9-26, because that is the age group that the research was done in. However, the target audience is 11-12 year old girls. Why?
  • It is better to vaccinate at an earlier age, as younger girls have a better response than older females
  • It is important to vaccinate girls prior to exposure to the human papilloma virus
  • Young girls are more susceptible to the virus than older ones
  • Adolescents are sexually active
  • Research is currently underway to see if the vaccine is safe and effective for women older than 26.
What are the most common adverse side effects of the vaccine?
  • Pain and redness at the injection site
How is the vaccine administered?
  • A series of 3 injections at 0, 2 and 6 months
Can the vaccine cure precancerous cervical lesions?
  • No. It is only indicated for the prevention of precancerous cervical lesions and cervical cancer.
Can people who have been exposed to the human papilloma virus in the past be vaccinated?
  • Yes. It is still possible to vaccinate against one or more of the 4 subtypes in the vaccine that they haven't been exposed to in the past
Is a booster shot necessary?
  • At this time, it is unclear whether a booster shot is necessary.
Once a female receives the vaccine, does she need to continue having pap smears?
  • Absolutely, the vaccine is not a substitution for pap smears and regular cervical screening is mandatory.
Will this vaccine make young girls more sexually active?
    There is no evidence that supports this. It is important for caretakers and parents to explain to their daughters that the vaccine does not protect against other types of sexually transmitted infections and that the vaccine does not protect against all types of the human papilloma virus. Sexual education should be done in the home and the importance of safe sex needs to be emphasized.
Is there a vaccine for males?
  • Currently, there is no vaccine available for males. However, research into a vaccine to prevent genital warts and cancer in men is underway.