HPV vaccine is used in 84 countries including the USA, Australia, Canada, and most of Europe and more than 80 million people have received the vaccine worldwide.
HPV vaccine – beating cervical cancer
There are many types of human papillomavirus (HPV). The very first HPV vaccination protects against type 16, 18 which are responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer cases. The latest vaccine can protect up to 9 different types of the virus.
HPV vaccine is used in 84 countries including the USA, Australia, Canada, and most of Europe and more than 80 million people have received the vaccine worldwide. There is evidence from Australia, Denmark, Scotland and England that the Vaccine is already having a major impact on protection against HPV.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women under the age of 35. In the UK, around 3000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year and about 900 women die from it. Cervical cancer develops in the cervix (the entrance to the womb – see diagram below). It is caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus or HPV.
HPV and how it spreads
The human papillomavirus is most commonly spread through sexual contact by an infected person (also known as carriers). The infection is often asymptomatic but is also known to genital warts. Not everyone infected with the virus goes on to develop cervical cancer but having the vaccine is important as it offers protection especially against the most subtypes of the HPV most commonly associated with cervical cancer.
Should girls who are already sexually active still consider vaccination?
Definitely. If you are sexually active and in the relevant age group, you should be vaccinated.
Like most injections, the common side effects of the HPV vaccination are soreness, swelling and redness in the arm. Severe side effects like allergy reaction are extremely rare. The vaccine has passed stringent safety checks and has been shown to be a very safe vaccine.
Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?
In USA: HPV vaccination is recommended to commence at age 11 to 12 year-old for girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series; HPV vaccine can also be given to girls as early as 9 years old.
CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccine at age 11-12 years to protect against cancers caused by HPV.
In UK: The vaccine is recommended for all girls from the age of 12 years up to their eighteenth birthday
In Viet Nam: Recommended age: Women aged 9 to 26 years old.
What if I have not had my first HPV vaccine by the age of 15?
If you have not had any HPV vaccine by the time you are 15 years old you will need three doses to have full protection. This is because older children require higher number of doses to generate the same immunity.
What vaccinated girls/women need to know: will girls/women who have been vaccinated still need cervical cancer screening?
Yes, Cervical screening (pap smear) is still important for women for early cancer detection regardless if HPV vaccination was given or not.
(Edited by Dr Nguyen Thi Hong Anh – Obstetrician & Gynaecologist)