What is the Human Papillomavirus (“HPV”) Vaccine?
GARDASIL®9, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., is the human papillomavirus (“HPV”) vaccine approved for use in females and males ages 9 to 26. Updated guidelines indicate that HPV may be recommended, in some cases, for adults up to 45 years of age. The GARDASIL®9 vaccine is a 9-valent vaccine (HPV-9). It is called a 9-valent vaccine because it protects against nine HPV types: 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58. The GARDASIL® vaccine can be administered in a 2-dose or 3-dose series, depending on the age of the recipient.
The quadrivalent Gardasil vaccine was phased out in 2016 and replaced with the 9-valent Gardasil vaccine. The Cervarix vaccine is no longer administered in the United States.
Human papilloma viruses comprise a group of more than 150 related viruses. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Certain types of HPV are associated with cancer, including cervical cancer. Up to 70% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Approximately 6 million people are infected with HPV each year in the United States. Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and spontaneously resolve over the course of a few years.
It is believed the HPV vaccine creates an antibody response that is capable of protecting a person against infection. The HPV vaccine uses virus-like particles (VLP) to produce an immune response. They are not infectious, because they lack DNA. However, these VLPs can attach to cells and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that can prevent the complete papillomavirus, in future encounters, from infecting cells. Although HPV vaccines can help prevent future HPV infection, they do not help eliminate existing HPV infections.
Who should receive the Human Papillomavirus vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all males and females receive HPV vaccination between the ages of 9 and 26, beginning at age 11 or 12. This schedule is designed to prevent potential exposure to HPV through sexual contact.
The HPV vaccine is not recommended for any person who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine. Any person who has any severe allergies, including an allergy to yeast, should consult their physician prior to receiving the HPV vaccination. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women at this time. In addition, anyone with an existing HPV infection should not receive the HPV vaccine.
How is the HPV vaccine administered?
The HPV vaccine should be given intramuscularly in a 2-dose or 3-dose series, depending on the age of the recipient. The CDC recommends that the first and second doses of the HPV vaccine be administered at least 5 months apart.