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Unlocking the Power of HPV Vaccines: A Comprehensive Guide to Protection and Prevention

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What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus, encompassing a wide spectrum of over 100 types within its viral family, primarily affects the skin. Typically, HPV infections manifest without symptoms, often leaving many individuals unaware or unaffected by its presence. However, in certain instances, the virus can provoke the development of discomforting growths known as genital warts, which tend to emerge around the genital or anal regions. Beyond this, it is strongly linked to the development of several cancers, notably cervical, anal, penile, vulval, vaginal, as well as specific types of head and neck cancers, underscoring its diverse and potentially severe health implications.

Carroll County Health Department

How is HPV spread?

Several HPV types affect the mouth, throat, or genital region. It is easily transmissible and does not necessarily require penetrative sexual contact. Transmission occurs through skin-to-skin contact involving the genitals, as well as through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and sharing sex toys. HPV is highly prevalent, affecting a vast majority of individuals at some point in their lives. Additionally, contracting HPV doesn’t necessarily require having multiple sexual partners; it can occur after the initial sexual encounter. Even individuals who have not been sexually active or have had the same partner for years can still have HPV.

HPV Vaccine

HPV immunisation programme reduces cervical cancer by 90%

The vaccine is strongly advocated for children between the ages of 12 and 13 and is also particularly recommended for individuals considered at a higher risk of contracting HPV. This group comprises individuals with distinct vulnerabilities, including but not limited to gay and bisexual men, individuals engaged in sex work, transgender individuals involved in anal sex with men, and those diagnosed with HIV. These individuals, due to their increased susceptibility to HPV, are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the vaccine to mitigate potential health risks associated with the virus.

Who should not get the vaccine?

If you’ve previously experienced a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, it’s not advisable to get a subsequent dose, even if you’re at high risk. There is no evidence suggesting harm from the vaccine during pregnancy, and it can be administered while breastfeeding. However, in certain cases, healthcare professionals might suggest waiting until after pregnancy to receive the vaccine.

How many doses do I need?

Typically, individuals under 25 years old require only one dose, while those aged 25 to 45 need two doses spaced six months to two years apart. Conversely, individuals with weakened immune systems necessitate three doses within twelve months.

Side effects of the HPV vaccine

Common side effects of the vaccine are usually mild and short-lived, including localized swelling or soreness, headaches, body aches, dizziness, and temporary feelings of sickness or fatigue. Severe side effects such as allergic reactions are rare. Healthcare providers administering the vaccine are trained to manage allergic reactions promptly, particularly symptoms of anaphylaxis. Furthermore, since the HPV vaccine contains an inactivated version, there is no risk of contracting HPV from the vaccine.

Effectiveness of the vaccine

Significant progress has been observed in the reduction of HPV-related conditions among young individuals, notably encompassing declines in prevalent health issues like the occurrence of genital warts and cervical cancer. This positive trend reflects the effectiveness of measures such as widespread vaccination campaigns and increased awareness, resulting in a noteworthy decrease in the frequency of these particular HPV-associated ailments among the younger population.

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