The HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine Gardasil protects against the two high-risk HPV types (types 16 and 18) that cause around 70% of cervical cancers, and some other less common cancers in women and men including vaginal, vulval, penile and anal cancers. The vaccine also protects against up to 90% of genital warts in men and women.
The vaccine is provided for free to girls and boys aged 12–13 years as part of the National HPV Vaccination Program. It works best if given before sexual activity commences, however Gardasil is approved for use in females aged 9–45 years and in males aged 9–26 years, so talk to your doctor about whether it would benefit you. The vaccine costs about $150 per dose outside of the funded adolescent program, additional consultation fees may be charged by your doctor.
Another vaccine, Cervarix, also provides protection against high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 and is approved for use in females aged 10–45 years. It does not protect against low-risk HPV types 6 and 11 which cause genital warts. It is also not licensed for use in males.
Both vaccine types are given in three doses across a six-month period, in the upper arm. It is important to have all three doses as this improves vaccine effectiveness and provides best protection.
Studies have shown that the vaccine provides good continuing protection against HPV infection. Studies are ongoing to determine whether a booster dose will be necessary in future.