Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most prominent sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Over 100 different strains of HPV can be passed along from partner to partner and while not all of them cause cancer, many still cause genital warts or cervical lesions. The Gardasil HPV vaccine is designed to protect against nine strains of HPV, including those most likely to develop into genital warts or cancers. One in four people are currently infected and there are 14 million new cases of infection every year in the United States alone.
Originally designed for 9- to 26-year-olds, the HPV vaccine has now been approved for 27- to 45-year-olds. Dosage looks different for different ages. Children age nine to 14 receive two shots six to 12 months apart, but older age groups—starting at 15 and now going to 45—will be given three shots with a more specific timeline to follow. Although people who have been sexually active longer may have already encountered one of the strains of HPV, doesn’t mean they should not get the vaccine. Because Gardasil protects against nine different strains, it is still possible to receive protection from these shots.
This vaccine not only guards against an STI, but also six distinct forms of cancer that can attack men and women. Common HPV-caused cancers include cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, and throat. Every year there are 33,700 new cases of HPV-caused cancer in men and women, but through the simple two—or three—injection course, the HPV vaccine prevents the development of HPV-based cancers in 31,200 men and women. And this number will continue to grow now that the vaccine can encompass more age groups.
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