There are currently two vaccines which protect against HPV infection. These are called Gardasil and Cervarix.
- Gardasil is designed to protect against four types of HPV:
- 16 and 18 (high-risk for cervical cancer, and they are linked to cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, as well as some oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers)
- 6 and 11 (these types do not cause cervical cancer but they do cause genital warts).
- Gardasil protects females between 9 and 45 years of age against precancerous conditions and cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva. It also helps prevent females and males of 9 to 26 years of age from precancerous conditions and cancers of the anus.
- Cervarix is designed to protect against HPV types 16 and 18. It also helps protect females between that ages of 10 and 25 against precancerous conditions and cancers of the cervix.
Both vaccines are licensed in Canada.
The HPV vaccine works best if given before women come into contact with HPV. As the virus is transmitted by skin to skin contact, usually by sexual activity, this age will vary. In practical terms, the easiest and most effective way to reach everybody is for girls to be vaccinated before they are sexually active. In Canada, the vaccination programs for HPV are implemented for girls in schools between grades 5 and 8 depending on the province. Additionally, 3 provinces, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Nova Scotia have a similar vaccination programs for boys.
Vaccines are given by injection into the muscle, usually the upper arm. Two separate doses are needed. The second dose should be given anytime between six to 12 months after the first, but it can be given up to 24 months after.
HPV vaccination has been shown to prevent infection and abnormal cervical cell changes for at least nine years but it is expected to last longer . Ongoing studies will show how much longer you will be protected for and whether booster shots will be required.
Both Gardasil and Cervarix, will protect against the two highest risk HPV types. But unfortunately women can be infected with more than one type of HPV. Having the vaccine will provide protection against 70% of all cervical cancers and it will also prevent most of the more serious precancerous cervical changes (classed as moderate or severe cervical abnormalities) .
There is some evidence that the HPV vaccines provide cross protection for other types of HPV which may mean that it has a higher protection level than first thought   . Research indicates that the HPV vaccine could prevent two thirds of cervical cancers in women aged below 30 by 2025 but only if uptake of the HPV vaccination is at 80% .
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- Paavonen J. et al.. 2009. Efficacy of human papillomavirus (HPV)-16/18 AS04-adjuvanted vaccine against cervical infection and precancer caused by oncogenic HPV types (PATRICIA): final analysis of a double-blind, randomised study in young women. Lancet 374 (9686), 301-14.
- Wheeler C. et al., 2009. The Impact of Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (HPV; Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) L1 Virus-Like Particle Vaccine on Infection and Disease Due to Oncogenic Nonvaccine HPV Types in Sexually Active Women Aged 16-26 Years. J Infect Dis, 199(7), 936-44.
- Szarewski A. 2008. HPV vaccines: peering through the fog. Journal of Family planning and Reproductive Health Care 34(4), 207-209.
- Malagon T. et al., 2012. Cross-proective efficacy of two human papillomvirus vaccines: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 12, 781-789.
- Cuzick J, Castanon A, and Sasieni P. 2010. Predicted impact of vaccination against human papillomavirus 16/18 on cancer incidence and cervical abnormalities in women aged 20–29 in the UK. British Journal of Cancer 102, 933-939.
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