Warnings and Precautions With the HPV Vaccine

There are several warnings and precautions with the HPV vaccine to be aware of, including potential drug interactions, taking the HPV vaccine during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, and possible allergic reactions. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any health conditions such as a bleeding disorder, a poorly functioning immune system, or any allergies. It is important to know that the HPV vaccine is designed to prevent -- not treat -- genital warts, cervical cancer, and precancerous growths.

The HPV Vaccine: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to receiving the HPV vaccine (Gardasil®, Cervarix®) if you have:
 
  • A fever or are feeling ill
  • A bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia or thrombocytopenia
  • A poorly functioning immune system (such as with HIV, AIDS, or cancer)
  • Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
     
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
 
  • Taking anticoagulants ("blood thinners")
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
     
Also, tell your healthcare provider about all of the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
 

Some HPV Vaccine Warnings and Precautions

Some HPV vaccine warnings and precautions to be aware of include:
 
  • The HPV vaccine can interact with certain medications (see Drug Interactions With the HPV Vaccine).
     
  • The HPV vaccine is considered a pregnancy Category B medicine. This means that the HPV vaccine is probably safe for use during pregnancy. However, it is not recommended to use the HPV vaccine during pregnancy, since the full risks of its use are not known. It is recommended to wait until after pregnancy to get the HPV vaccine. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider about HPV and pregnancy (see HPV Vaccine and Pregnancy).
     
  • It is not known whether the HPV vaccine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can decide whether taking the HPV vaccine while nursing makes sense for your particular situation.
     
  • The HPV vaccine is not meant to treat genital warts, cervical cancer, or precancerous growths. The HPV vaccine will not cure an HPV infection. The HPV vaccine is not a cure for genital warts and will not improve the symptoms of genital warts. It is designed to prevent (not treat) these problems.
     
  • The HPV vaccine will not protect against diseases that are not caused by HPV. HPV causes most (but not all) cases of cervical cancer.

 

  • The HPV vaccine is not intended to replace routine cervical cancer screening. Women who have received this vaccine still need regular cervical cancer screening. 

 

  • With all vaccines, there is a small risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction. Your healthcare provider should be ready in case an allergic reaction occurs. 

 

  • As with other vaccines, fainting has been reported after some individuals were given the HPV vaccine. It is recommended that patients be observed for 15 minutes after the vaccination, to make sure that fainting does not occur in a dangerous situation (such as while driving).

 

  • If your immune system is not functioning properly, the HPV vaccine may not work as well for you. This includes people with HIV, AIDS, cancer, or people taking immune-suppressing medications.
     
  • The HPV vaccine (as with all injections given into muscle) should be avoided if possible in people with bleeding disorders (such as hemophilia or thrombocytopenia) or people taking anticoagulants ("blood thinners"). These people are more likely to have bleeding under the skin and in the muscle. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether the benefits of taking the HPV vaccine outweigh the risks of bleeding from the injection.

 

  • This vaccine does not contain 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, and Cervarix contains 0.5 mg of aluminum hydroxide per dose.
     
  • This vaccine is not made from human fetal components or animal components, as some vaccines are. 

 

  • Routine cervical cancer screening (such as the Pap test or HPV test) is still recommended after getting the HPV vaccine.
     
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