What is HPV vaccination?
Human papilloma virus (abbreviated to HPV) is a type of viral infection that can affect the cervix. It can also affect over moist membranes in the human body, such as the anus, mouth or throat. It can be spread relatively easily through any kind of sexual contact
In most cases, HPV does not cause any symptoms, so it is difficult for anyone to know when they have the virus. In rare cases, however, it can cause cells to change in such a way that they eventually develop into cancerous tumours.
There are over 100 different types of HPV, although some are much more common than others. Type 16 and Type 18 are jointly responsible for around three quarters of cervical cancer cases. However, it is possible to protect patients from ever contracting these types of HPV with just one vaccination.
Who can be vaccinated?
There is scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26 years old. As a result, the two-stage vaccine is currently recommended and provided by the NHS for girls between the ages of 12 and 13.
Women who have already tested positive for HPV Type 16 may be vaccinated to help prevent them from contracting Type 18, and vice versa. However, for women who have already tested positive for both Type 16 and Type 18, the vaccine cannot offer any value.
How effective is the vaccine?
The vaccination is most effective when the patient has never been exposed to any type of HPV. This is why it is administered on the NHS before girls enter puberty. Being vaccinated before any sexual contact with others increases the success rate of the vaccine to almost 100% for preventing Type 16 and Type 18 HPV, according to early research.
For women who may or may not have contracted any type of HPV already, the general success rate drops to 39%.
How is the vaccination administered?
The HPV vaccine can be administered in either two or three stages, spaced several months apart. Depending on the exact method used, the number of doses and the length of time between doses can vary. More than one dose is always required for the vaccination to be effective.
What else can you do?
HPV vaccination does that eliminate the need for smear tests and other preventative measures to stop cervical cancer developing. It only reduces the risk of contracting an infection that may lead to cancer later. You should still have smear tests regularly with your gynaecologist and follow any additional advice they give you based on the results.