Gardasil® (HPV Vaccine)
You may have heard about Gardasil® on TV, at a health care provider's office, or from a friend. This important vaccine used to only be available for girls and young women, but was approved for young men in 2009, and is now recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). This means that guys' now have a great preventative option available against the types of the HPV virus that cause genital warts and anal cancer.
What is HPV?
HPV is the most common STI. More than 40 types of HPV are sexually transmitted and can cause infections in the genitals, mouth, and throat. Because there are so many types of HPV, they are referred to by number. For example; 6 and 11 cause approximately 90% of genital warts. Other typed cause anal cancer.
How do people get HPV?
HPV is spread through genital contact; most often during vaginal and anal sex. It can also be passed on through digital contact and oral sex. In order for you to contract HPV, you have to have skin to skin contact with a person who already has HPV.
What can I do to prevent getting HPV?
The only sure way to prevent getting HPV is to be abstinent, or refrain from sexual contact altogether. If you're having sexual contact, you can reduce your risk of infection by having a monogamous sexual relationship (having sex with only one person who only has sex with you) and by using condoms 100% of the time. Condoms aren't perfect because they don't cover all of the skin in the genital area, but they do lower chances of HPV infection.
A new and very important preventative option is the vaccine (Gardasil®) that can prevent genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. The vaccine is considered safe by FDA standards. It does not contain mercury or thimerosal, and will not cause an HPV infection.
What about side effects?
Side effects are rare; however, some young men who get the vaccine may have pain, swelling, or redness where they got the injection. These temporary discomforts will go away within a few days. In very few cases, people may get a fever, feel dizzy, or feel nauseous. Some people have fainted after receiving the vaccine, so if you plan on getting it, it's a good idea to sit or lie down for 10-15 minutes afterwards.
It's very uncommon to have side-effects from vaccines. If you think you might have had a side-effect from a vaccine, talk to your health care provider. You can also call 1-800-822-7967 or visit vaers.hhs.gov.
When can I get vaccinated?
Boys and young men can get vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 26, and the CDC recommends Gardasil® for boys and young men ages 11-26. The best time to get vaccinated is before you have any sexual contact because you might not have been exposed to all types of HPV yet. However, you can still get vaccinated if you've had prior sexual contact.
How many shots do I have to get?
The vaccine is given as a series of 3 shots over a period of 6 months. The first shot is given when you decide to start the series. The second shot should be given two months after the first shot, and the third shot should be given about six months after the first one.
Will my insurance cover the vaccine?
Most insurance plans cover the HPV vaccine, but some do not. If you're covered under your parent's insurance, check with them. If you have your own policy, you can call your insurance provider directly. If you pay for the vaccine on your own, each dose is about $130, or $390 for the full series - 3 shots.
If you're wondering about Gardasil®, here's a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: "I've heard that there's an HPV vaccine for guys - can I get it?"
If you're currently sexually active, or have had any sexual contact in the past, it's important to learn the facts about how HPV is spread and what you can do to prevent getting it and/or passing it on to others...