Genital warts (also known as venereal warts or condylomata acuminate) are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is comprised of over 100 related viruses, and which is one of the most prevalent causes of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world. It is estimated that over 50% of all sexually active individuals contract HPV at some point in their lives.
Most of the HPV diseases seen today are caused by four types of HPV. It is estimated that 90% of all genital warts cases are caused by HPV Types 6 and 11, and that 75% of all cervical cancers and vaginal cancers in women are caused by HPV Types 16 and 18. In addition, HPV Types 16 and 18 also account for up to half of all vulvar cancer cases in women.
The vaccine Gardasil (also called Gardisil or Silgard) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent the incidence of genital warts. Containing a protein that assists the immune system to produce antibodies against HPV, Gardasil is available for both males and females, and has been deemed highly effective, preventing HPV 90% of the time. Note that Gardasil does not treat existing HPV infections, however, and thus must be administered before one gets infected.
Gardasil also does not protect against other types of HPV disease, nor does it prevent all types of cervical cancer; therefore women should not let Gardasil replace their regular Pap Tests or cervical cancer screening tests. Indeed, Pap tests save lives by detecting abnormal cells in the cervix lining before they become cancerous. Pregnant women should not take Gardasil, nor should anyone who is allergic to yeast or any other Gardasil ingredients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that Gardasil vaccines for girls begin at age 11-12, and that Gardasil can be administered to boys from the age of 9. All young men and women up to the age of 26 should receive a routine HPV vaccination with Gardasil.
Males and females who already sexually active may still benefit from the Gardasil vaccine, for they may not yet have been exposed to HPV or to the types of HPV for which Gardasil offers protection.
Gardasil Protocol and Side Effects
Over a period of six months, individuals will receive three injections of Gardasil for protection against genital warts, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.
Some of the side effects associated with Gardasil injections include itching, bruising, swelling, pain, or redness at the site of the injection. In addition, some people get nauseous, dizzy, and may vomit or even faint. After receiving a Gardasil injection it is common for healthcare practitioners to ask patients to sit or lie down for 15 minutes.
In the United States, individuals who cannot afford vaccines or who don't have medical insurance can turn to the Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program, which offers free Gardasil vaccines to adults 19 years of age and older. In addition, the federal Vaccines for Children Program provides free Gardasil vaccines to children and youth aged 18 and under.
A second vaccine that blocks HPV Types 16 and 18 has now been approved by the FDA: Cervarix. Both Gardasil and Cervarix help prevent cervical cancer.