What is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is considered responsible for a widespread of infections.
It has been identified as a group of more than 200 related viruses, most causing lesions such as warts and more than 40 HPV types infecting the mucous membranes, especially the genitals. Some lesions can also develop into cancers.
The HPV types that affect the mucous membranes are divided into two categories: high risk HPVs and low risk HPVs. High risk HPVs develop into cancer and are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers, while low risk HPVS are benign and at low risk of malignant transformation. HPV is also responsible for tumors such as anal cancer, penile cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer. The use of condoms during sexual relations can reduce, but not eliminate the risk of contracting HPV. The human papillomavirus vaccine prevents the risk of infection, though in order to be effective; it must be administered before the body comes into contact with the virus.
What is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine composed of?
The human papillomavirus vaccine consists of particles associated with adjuvant substances, produced by recombinant DNA and therefore does not use the DNA of the virus itself.
There are two main vaccines available:
- Quadrivalent vaccine: a vaccine that can be administered in both males and females, consisting of HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 (responsible for over 90% of the presence of warts). It is injected intramuscularly in the anterolateral upper thigh area.
- Bivalent vaccine: a vaccine that is administered only in females, consisting of HPV types 16 and 18 (responsible for over 70% of all cervical cancers). It is injected intramuscularly in the upper region of the arm.
When is it recommended to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
The papilloma virus vaccine is not mandatory but is highly recommended (for younger females around 12 years old) given the high occurrence rate of HPV infections and the potential consequences. The infection occurs through sexual contact, which is why it is recommended to receive the vaccination before engaging in sexual intercourse.
Doses of the vaccine vary depending on an individual’s age and the type of vaccine in question:
- Quadrivalent vaccine: a vaccine that can be received through two doses (the second dose in 6 months after to the first) in individuals between the ages of 9 and 13. It can also be administered in three doses (of which the second dose is received at least one month after the first and the third dose at least three months after the second). All three doses should nevertheless be administered within one year. After the age of 14, the three doses should be administered at the same rate as the previous years.
- Bivalent vaccine: a vaccine that can be received through two doses (the second dose in 5-7 months after the first) in individuals between the ages of 9 and 14. After the age of 14, the three doses should be administered as follows: the second dose 1-2.5 months after the first and the third dose 5-12 months after the second.
What are the side effects of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
The human papillomavirus vaccine is very safe. Following administration, only a slight pain may be felt at the injection site. Mild symptoms that may occur include the following:
- Redness at the injection site
- Itching at the injection site
Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions and although rare, there are such cases that may present themselves. These problems may occur within minutes or a few hours after the vaccination, depending on the individual’s immune system.