The HPV vaccine is used to prevent cervical cancer, genital warts, and precancerous genital lesions. It stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to fight off the HPV virus. Two types of the vaccine are currently available (Cervarix and Gardasil); both are given in a three-shot series over six months. Potential side effects include reactions at the injection site, fever, and nausea.
What Is the HPV Vaccine?
There are currently two different HPV vaccines. Gardasil® (Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus [Types 6, 11, 16, and 18] Recombinant Vaccine) was the first HPV vaccine approved in the United States. It is approved to prevent cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, genital warts, and various precancerous genital lesions caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV for short) in girls and women ages 9 through 26.
Gardasil is also approved to prevent genital warts in boys and men in the same age group. Recently, Gardasil was also approved to prevent anal cancer and precancerous anal lesions in males and females age 9 to 26 years.
The second HPV vaccine approved for use in the United States was Cervarix® (Human Papillomavirus Bivalent [Types 16 and 18] Vaccine, Recombinant). Cervarix is approved for preventing cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions in girls and women 9 through 25 years of age.
Thimerosal Content and Other Concerns
Neither form of this vaccine contains thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative). Individuals who are concerned about exposure to thimerosal can be confident that this vaccine has no thimerosal (not even trace amounts).
Some people are concerned about aluminum content of vaccines; Gardasil contains 225 mcg (0.225 mg) of aluminum per dose, while Cervarix contains 0.5 mg of aluminum hydroxide per dose.
This vaccine is not made from human fetal components or animal components, unlike some vaccines.