What is the HPV Vaccine? Which Cancers Does It Protect Against? At What Age Should Adolescents Be Vaccinated?
According to the World Health Organization data, cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women. It is known that approximately 90% of cervical cancers are caused by high-risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is known that HPV is also the leading cause of various other cancers of the genital area, including the penis, and genital warts.
HPV is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, and most individuals encounter HPV after sexual activity. In more than 90% of these individuals, the virus infection regresses spontaneously, while the remainder develop warts and precancerous lesions.
Until today, a double vaccine that protects against HPV 16 and 18, which are the most risky HPV types, and a quadruple vaccine that also protects against genital warts (HPV 6,11,16,18) were administered to young adults and adolescents. As of January 2023, protective HPV vaccine against 9 different virus types (6,11,16,18, 31,33,45,52,58) including other risky types became available in our country.
The HPV vaccine should ideally be administered before the individual's sexually active life begins. In countries where the vaccine is included in the national immunization calendar, the vaccine is routinely administered to children aged 11-12 years. In children aged 9-15 years, two doses of vaccine are sufficient between 6 months and 1 year, while a 3-dose vaccine scheme is applied in children over 15 years of age.
Beginning of a sexually active life, encountering the HPV virus before or having any HPV-related lesion are not an obstacle to being vaccinated. Although HPV vaccine can be administered at any age, it is known that protection is higher in younger individuals who have not encountered the virus before.
In the 10-year studies of HPV vaccines, it was observed that the protection continued for 10 years. In safety studies, it has been shown that there are no significant side effects except for the side effects that can occur with all vaccines.
You can contact your pediatrician to get more detailed information about HPV vaccines and to share your questions.