Sexually Transmitted Infections: HPV

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection found in adults worldwide. There are two types of HPV, i.e., HPV-16 and HPV-18. These two types cause around 80% of anal cancers, 70% of cervical cancers, 60% of vaginal cancers, 40% of vulvar cancers, and some genital warts (De Vuyst, Clifford, Nascimento, Madeleine,&Franceschi, 2009). Currently, there are two vaccines in the market, i.e., Gardasil and Cervarix.


Is HPV vaccine safe?

The first and foremost question that arises in our minds before accepting any drug/vaccine/treatment is “Is it safe?” The answer to this question with respect to the vaccine lies in the fact that before any vaccine or drug is released into the market, it must be licensed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its safety and efficacy. Both the HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, have been approved by FDA after testing them on thousands of people in the United States and other countries. These two vaccines are licensed for use in females of age 9 through 26 years.

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So far, there are no serious adverse reactions reported. However, there are some common side-effects such as pain at the site of injection, fever, nausea, brief soreness, dizziness, and maybe other local symptoms. Fainting has been observed after vaccination in adolescents. As a precaution, adolescents and adults should be lying down or seated during and after vaccination for about 15 minutes to avoid fainting and injuries thereafter (National Cancer Institute, 2011).


Is HPV vaccine recommended for men and older women?

Men with weak immune systems, homosexual and bisexual men are more likely to develop HPV related infections. HPV vaccination has been found to be effective in men and boys aged 9 through 26 years. The vaccination has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of anal cancer and genital warts. The 3-dose series of HPV vaccine reduces the probability of acquiring genital warts. However, this vaccination is not the recommended routine of administration to men (CDC, 2011).

At present, the vaccine is recommended only for men and women in the age group of 9 to 26 years, though women over 26 years can also benefit from the vaccine. The vaccine is age limited because women are already exposed to HPV types by the time they are 26. This vaccination has the highest benefit when given to younger women less than 26 years of age. Although studies have shown that vaccination is effective in women >26 years, older women (>26 years) are not recommended to take the vaccines, rather they can go for the diagnosis of cervical cancer (CDC, 2011).

Can HPV vaccine be taken during pregnancy?

HPV vaccination is not licensed for administration to pregnant women. These vaccines have not been sufficiently tested in pregnant women. Therefore, women should not take HPV vaccination during pregnancy. More research is still needed to be carried out to test the safety of this vaccination in pregnant women though some studies have shown that the vaccination does not cause any harm to the babies born to women who got vaccinated during pregnancy.

However, a pregnant woman must not take any dose of HPV vaccination until her pregnancy is completed. If a woman realizes that she has taken a dose of HPV vaccine while pregnant, she should call the pregnancy registry and learn more about it (CDC, 2011).

Note: Sexually active people can lower the chances of HPV infection by using condoms with every sex act.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). CDC.

De Vuyst, H., Clifford, G. M., Nascimento, M. C., Madeleine, M. M.,&Franceschi, S. (2009). Prevalence and type distribution of human papillomavirus in carcinoma and intraepithelial neoplasia of the vulva, vagina and anus: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Cancer124 (7): 1626–1636.

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. (2011). Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines. National Cancer Institute.

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