The HPV vaccine is administered to both females and males age 9-26 in three doses over a six month period. Insurance companies will only pay for the doses completed before the patient’s 27th birthday. The Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend routine HPV vaccination to girls at age 11 or 12. The vaccine is most effective when given before any exposure to HPV (i.e. before any sexual activity) and produces higher antibody when given at this age as opposed to older ages. Girls and women age 13-26 can still receive the vaccine if they have not previously. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
HPV can cause genital warts, precancerous lesions of the cervix and vagina, and cervical cancer. The vaccine helps to protect against diseases caused by HPV Types 6, 11, 16, and 18. These four types of HPV cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. However, because there are more than 100 types of HPV, the vaccine will not protect against all of them. The vaccine will also not protect against types of HPV to which you have already been exposed. However, since exposure to all four types of HPV is rare, the vaccination should still provide benefit. HPV vaccination does not make you exempt from routine Pap testing and following your providers guidelines for Pap testing is imperative.