Ask the doctor: Should I get the HPV vaccine?

Q. Should I get the HPV vaccine since I am already 26-years-old? Will I be exposed to the virus if I take the vaccine? What are my risks?

vaccine girl 300x194 Ask the doctor: Should I get the HPV vaccine? Photo

Did you know you can get the HPV vaccine up until the age of 26?

A. It’s great that you asked this question now. This is the last year that you would be eligible for the human papilloma virus vaccine!

The CDC recommends that all women age 26 years and under receive the vaccine – but that’s also the cutoff. The effectiveness and safety has not been studied in older adults. Commercial brands are Gardasil and Cervarix.

Even though you still qualify due to your age, there are certain conditions that would make you ineligible.

Contraindications

Do not get the vaccine if you:

  • Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to an ingredient from the vaccine in the past
  • Had a history of severe allergic reaction to an HPV vaccine injection
  • Currently have a moderate to severe illness
  • Are pregnant

If you are currently nursing, you can safely be vaccinated.

Side Effects and Risks of HPV Vaccine

There are almost no medications or vaccines that can boast a risk-free use, and the human papilloma vaccine is no exception.

Ten percent of people may run a low-grade fever after administration. Additional side effects include:

  • Itching at the injection site
  • Arm pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fainting, syncope

Severe reactions linked to the HPV vaccine are rare, but include:

  • Seizures
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Blood clots
  • Death

Of importance to note is that while these severe reactions occurred in vaccine recipients, public health investigators failed to actually prove a link. Instead, the investigation concluded that the statistics were rather a reflection of the events occurring naturally in the population.

Observation, which started in 2006, is ongoing.

Why You Should Receive the HPV Vaccine

The human papillomavirus, which is pervasive in our society, causes cervical cancer in women. It’s associated with genital warts and anal cancer in both sexes. Yet, until diagnosed, symptoms often go undetected.

Even worse, most people who are sexually active will be infected with HPV during their life span. So, teenagers and even those that are younger are strongly urged to have the vaccine prior to becoming sexually active and exposed to the virus.

The HPV vaccine prevents infection from the two most common types of the virus, #16 and #18. There are no viruses, including HPV, in the vaccine. It is comprised of proteins, similar to papilloma, which come from the production of genetically modified bacteria. The proteins are then purified and introduced into a sterile, water-based solution.

Getting the HPV vaccine will give you peace of mind – as well as guard your health. It significantly lowers your risk of cervical cancer and precancerous growths while thwarting the spread of the virus itself.

Speak to your doctor about the feasibility of getting the vaccine to see if it is right for you. Just remember, you are at the outer limit of eligibility. Don’t put it off!