Written on October 27, 2023 by Amy Harris, MPH, RN. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it makes sense that you want to protect the best you can. Thanks to modern-day science, there is a safe and highly effective vaccine to reduce your risk of HPV infection and the genital warts and cancer an HPV infection can cause. Remember the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Well, vaccines are one of the best kinds of medicines because they prevent you from getting infected in the first place. Here, we’ll review the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, as well as the recommended vaccination schedule.
Even if you already know what HPV is, you may still have questions about HPV prevention for men and women. One question might be, “Why, if HPV goes away in 90 percent of infected people, should you bother getting vaccinated?” Or, “Why, if most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, do you need to get the vaccine?”[2,3]
Good questions. The answer is that each year in the United States, HPV causes 46,711 new cases of cancer that the HPV vaccine could have prevented: 25,689 among women and 21,022 among men. Here are some other reasons why you might want to consider getting this jab if you haven’t already [1,2,3,5,6,7]:
The HPV vaccine can potentially prevent 90 percent (nine out of 10) of cancers caused by HPV. It is so effective that since 2006, when the first HPV vaccine was recommended to prevent infection with four HPV types, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports an 86 percent decrease in HPV infections in female teens aged 14 to 19 years and a 71 percent reduction in women in their early 20s.
The HPV vaccine is much more effective than other vaccines we line up for, like the flu vaccine, whose effectiveness varies year to year, anywhere from 40-60 percent.
Research has also shown that fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts and that cervical precancers are decreasing since HPV vaccines have been used in the United States. Other studies show reduced rates of oral and anal HPV-associated cancers with HPV vaccination.[9,10]
The majority of people are infected with HPV shortly after they become sexually active. The HPV vaccine is most effective in preventing HPV if you receive it before becoming sexually active. Research has shown that receiving the vaccine at a young age isn't linked to an earlier start of sexual activity. Current U.S. recommendations are that the quadrivalent HPV vaccine should be offered as a routine vaccination (like the chicken pox vaccine) :
Timing also matters because there are two doses of the vaccine. Unless you get both doses, you won’t be fully protected. The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend :
For people starting the vaccine series after they are 15 years old or who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system and are therefore at greater risk for HPV infection), the CDC and ACIP recommend :
So, just because you’ve had HPV once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the vaccine (if you haven’t already had it). Having HPV does not make you immune to getting HPV again. There are also over 150 HPV types, 40 of which can be transmitted sexually.
Unfortunately not. If you have HPV now, that question is probably at the top of your list, right after “Does HPV go away?” Fortunately, 80-90 percent of all HPV infections go away on their own, usually within two years.
The current HPV vaccine available in the United States, the Gardasil 9®, cannot treat any types of HPV you already have. Unfortunately, unless you have an in-office HPV test or an at-home High-Risk HPV test for those with cervices like the one offered by EverlyWell, you won’t know which types of HPV you have. You also won’t know when and if you have cleared the infection.
Taking care of your health sometimes involves a sore arm or two — because vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent getting sick in the first place. You care about your health and well-being. Getting your HPV vaccination on time and on schedule before becoming sexually active might just help keep HPV, genital warts, and cancer out of your bedroom and your life.
Everlywell believes in the power of understanding how to stay healthy. That’s why we make sexual healthcare convenient, simple, and accessible. From virtual STD consults, at-home tests for high-risk HPV, and even treatment for some STDs online for those who qualify, EverlyWell is committed to helping you prioritize your sexual health and well-being.