The HPV Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know About Gardasil

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You may have seen the commercial urging you to be “one less.” And chances are your doctor or gynecologist has asked if you have, or would like to be vaccinated. Both are referring to protecting yourself from Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that according to WebMD, is actually really common - at least 50% of all people who have sex at some time in their lives will get it. However, while some people don't have any symptoms and the HPV infection goes away on its own, certain types can lead to cervical cancer. Fortunately, HPV is 100% preventable when we make smart, informed decisions about our health. Receiving regular pap smears and using protection while having sex are two safe practices recommended by all doctors. However, a fairly new option is Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine that protects against four types of human papillomavirus (HPV) – two types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases and two more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. Every year, about 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 die from the disease, with college-age women falling in the age range considered most at risk. If you’re feeling a little in the dark about HPV or the vaccine, don’t fret! Consider this Gardasil 101:

What exactly is Gardasil?

Gardasil is a vaccine used to prevent against certain types of HPV. It’s a shot given in the arm as three separate doses with a sort of “timeline”; the second dose should be given two months after the first dose, and the third dose should be given four months after the second dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that all girls 11-12 years old get vaccinated. The goal is to vaccinate prior to sexual activity, but Gardasil is also highly recommended for girls and women ages 13 through 26 years old who are already sexually active and have not been vaccinated.

What Does Gardasil Prevent?

Gardasil prevents against certain types of HPV that can cause genital warts or abnormal cell changes in the cervix and other genital areas, which can lead to cervical cancer in women. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. alone.

How Much Does It Cost?

Gardasil costs about $125 per dose, which is $375 for the full series of shots. While some insurance companies may cover the vaccine, others do not – and the high cost is a major reason why some women aren’t getting vaccinated. According to the CDC, however, there are some options to help pay for the vaccine - some states also provide free or low-cost vaccines at public health department clinics to people without health insurance coverage for vaccines. Talk to your school’s health services who might know about more payment options under your university’s health insurance plan.

Are There Risks Involved?

Recent news reports have been focused on girls who have had adverse side effects from the vaccine. However, the FDA and CDC have been scrutinizing the safety of Gardasil, and continue to find that it’s a safe and effective vaccine and that its benefits continue to outweigh its risks. Common side effects from the shot include pain or swelling at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting. For a complete list of side effects you can visit Sources