national immunization awareness month

What’s the deal with the HPV vaccine?

Someone asked us…

what’s the deal with the HPV vaccine? should i get it? what does it even do?

The HPV vaccine is really awesome and important. Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common STD out there — nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most of the time, these infections are harmless and go away on their own. However, some types of HPV have been linked to cancer and genital warts.

There are two HPV vaccines out there right now: Gardasil and Cervarix. Both vaccines are given in a series of three separate shots over six months.

Like the common cold or the flu, there are a LOT of different types of HPV. Like, more than 100. Types 16 and 18 cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and both Gardasil and Cervarix protect against these. Gardasil also protects against types 6 and 11 – the two that cause about 90 percent of genital warts.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all people between the ages of 11-12. That’s because it works best if gotten before becoming sexually active. But you can totally get it up through age 26. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t cure HPV if you already have it. Like all vaccines, it’s prevention, not treatment. So the earlier you get it, the better it works.

With a new school year around the corner, now’s the perfect time to get the HPV vaccine and spread the word about how important it is. So if you, a friend, sibling, or anyone else you know between the ages of 9 and 26 still haven’t gotten the vaccine, encourage them to talk to their nurse or doctor. Or call your nearest Planned Parenthood — our health centers provide nearly 40,000 HPV vaccines a year, so we’ve gotten pretty good at it!

-Kellie at Planned Parenthood

I’m afraid of needles but I want to get the HPV vaccine. What should I do?

Someone asked us:

How badly does the HPV vaccine hurt? I know that I should get it because it’s an important vaccine and I feel so stupid but I’ve been putting it off because I’ve heard that it’s really painful and I hate needles and I’m so scared!

I am so there with you on hating needles. I can’t tell you how much of a weenie I am about getting shots and blood work. But as nervous as I was about getting my HPV shots, they didn’t end up being particularly painful or eventful. I psyched myself up for a whole lot of nothing.

But, everyone reacts to shots differently — some people have pain and others don’t. My advice: plan ahead to make things go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. Here are some things you can do to make the process easier:

  • Tell your doctor or nurse about your concerns. It’s unlikely that you’re the first patient they’ve seen with a fear of needles, so they’ll be prepared to deal with your needle anxiety.

  • Bring something distracting to do. Try to use your time before your appointment for relaxation —  read a book, listen to some music, engage in something that calms your nerves so you’ll be less tense when you go in.

  • Use the buddy system. Having someone there who can comfort you if you start to panic can make a huge difference.

  • Give yourself something to look forward to after your appointment. Because you deserve a reward for taking care of your health and facing your fears.

From one scaredy cat to another, I know it can be hard but I promise it’s totally worth it.

-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood