What is Gardasil?
It is a vaccine that protects women from certain HPV types (6,11, 16, and 18). While there are over 100 types of HPV, these four cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers and 90% of all genital warts. Gardasil helps prevent these diseases, it cannot be used to treat existing diseases.
Gardasil is covered by most insurance companies.
Who should, and should not, receive Gardasil?
The FDA has approved this vaccine for girls/women from 9 to 26 years old. It has not yet been approved for women over 26, or for boys/men. While the FDA is currently conducting studies on these groups, no official approval has been given for these groups. Without FDA approval, there is both financial risk (of insurance carriers not paying) and malpractice risk (of using a vaccine to a group of people not approved for by the FDA).
Females who are sexually active may have already been exposed to one of these specific HPV types and, therefore, will not benefit as fully from this vaccine. For example, a female exposed only to HPV type 6 will be protected from HPV types 11, 16, and 18. No current test is available to determine if a female has had any exposure to any or all of these specific HPV types.
Pregnant women should not receive the vaccine. There has not been enough research by the FDA to make a formal decision on this. While preliminary studies indicate that the vaccine has not caused health problems for the mother or the infant, more research is needed. If a woman finds out that she is pregnant after beginning the series of injections, she should complete her pregnancy before completing the three-shot vaccination series. Women who are allergic to some of the ingredients in Gardasil should not receive the vaccine. These ingredients inclue amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate, sodium chloride, L-histidine, polysorbate 80, sodium borate and water. If you develop a severe allergic reaction to the first shot, you may not be a candidate for the subsequent injections.
How is Gardasil given?
It is delivered by a series of three injections:
First dose - at a date you and your provider choose
Second dose - two months after the first dose
Third dose - six months after the first dose
There have been no studies to determine the effectiveness of only one or two shots instead of all three shots. All three shots should be received.
Since this is a new vaccine, it has not been determined if a 'booster' shot will be necessary. Studies are currently being done to determine if a booster shot will be needed to maintain protection against these HPV types.
As with any vaccine injection, there may be some pain, swelling, itching, redness at the injection site or or a slight fever. You should call your provider immediately if any severe reaction or breathing difficulties occur.
Before you begin the series of injections, you should advise your provider of :
- any bleeding disorder preventing you from receiving a shot in the arm
- a weakened immune system from a genetic defect or HIV infection
- any current medications being taken (prescription or over-the-counter)
- plans for pregnancy
- any current illness with a fever over 100F
Do I still need to have an annual exam?
You should continue to have your annual exam, including a Pap test. There are other types of cervical cancer that may originate with other HPV types.
Gardasil is offered at Women’s Health Specialists. Talk with your provider today or call our office at (928) 783-3050.