Two HPV vaccines are available to help protect against certain types of human papillomavirus. One vaccine is for girls and young women aged 9 to 45 years and helps protect against HPV types 16 and 18. Another vaccine is for girls and women aged 9 to 45 years and boys and young men aged 9 to 26 years and helps protect against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. Protection against these types of HPV may prevent certain diseases.
HPV vaccines are typically given in 3 separate shots within a 6-month period. Although the best time to be vaccinated is before becoming sexually active, vaccination is still useful for those who are sexually active, since it's unlikely that they will already have been infected with all the types of HPV that the vaccine protects against. If you already have one of the HPV virus types, vaccination may protect you from the other types.
The vaccines work by encouraging the body to develop an immune response to the types of HPV that the vaccines cover. This will help the body fight off these types of HPV in the future. The vaccines can't cause HPV infection or any of its potential consequences.
The vaccines are generally well tolerated, but there may be some side effects. The most commonly reported side effects include pain, swelling, itching, or redness in the area where the injection was given. Some people may also have fever, nausea, dizziness, or headache.
HPV vaccination is not for everyone. It is not recommended for people who are:
- planning on becoming pregnant during the vaccination schedule
- allergic to the vaccine or any of its ingredients
Women who receive an HPV vaccine will still need to go for regular Pap tests and check-ups. A Pap test is a simple test done by your doctor to catch abnormal cells before they turn into cervical cancer and to detect cervical cancer early. Speak to your doctor to find out about how often you should be having a Pap test and check-up, and how to protect yourself against HPV.
What does this mean for teens and young women?
It's never too early to start thinking about how to protect yourself. Most women become infected in their late teens and early 20s.
Talk to your doctor to find out all the ways to protect yourself from HPV and the health problems it can cause. Protecting yourself from HPV includes practising safer sex, having regular Pap tests and check-ups, and considering having HPV vaccination.
What does this mean to mothers?
If you have a daughter 9 years old or older, it is important for you to learn about HPV infection.
About 75% of sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection at some point in their lives. However, HPV vaccination is most useful if given before a girl starts sexual activity.
Talk to your doctor about ways to protect your daughter from HPV and the health problems it can cause. Protection from HPV includes practising safer sex, having regular Pap tests and check-ups, and considering HPV vaccination.
What about vaccination for boys and young men?
One of the HPV vaccines available in Canada can also be used by boys and young men aged 9 to 26 years. For males, the HPV vaccine helps protect against HPV infection caused by certain types of HPV and genital warts and anal cancer caused by certain types of HPV. Vaccination against HPV in males (especially before a boy starts sexual activity) is also important because it will help prevent the spread of HPV infection.
Talk to your doctor to find out all the ways to protect yourself from HPV and the health problems it can cause. Protecting yourself from HPV includes practising safer sex and considering having the HPV vaccine.
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