The ability to conceive and bear children is an important aspect of life for many
Every day, over 1 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur worldwide. Vaccination efforts play a crucial role in lowering the incidence of disease and improving public health in countries around the globe. Despite major scientific breakthroughs, however, effective vaccines do not exist for all types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
So, what STDs have vaccines, what STDs don't, and what STDs may have effective vaccines in the coming years? We answer other commonly answered questions, such as “How effective is the HPV vaccine in preventing cervical cancer?”
If you are looking for quick, confidential, same-day STD testing, Rapid STD Testing can help. In the meantime, keep reading for more information about STD vaccinations.
Vaccines Against Common STDs: Current Landscape
Both bacterial and viral STDs pose public health challenges because people can spread them without knowing they are infected. However, modern medicine can treat bacterial STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis relatively easily with antibiotics.
STDs caused by viruses, on the other hand, are much more resistant to treatment and stay in the body forever in many cases. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies have prioritized vaccines against viral STDs.
What STDs have vaccines? Currently, vaccines are available for the following STDs:
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
All three of these vaccines are extremely effective. If you get all the recommended doses of the HPV vaccine before being exposed to the virus, it can lower your chances of getting external genital warts by almost 100%.
Can hepatitis B be prevented through vaccination? The hepatitis B vaccine has similar effectiveness, providing nearly 100% protection. As for the hepatitis A vaccine, all adults and children appear to become immune to the virus after two doses.
In the United States, doctors typically administer hepatitis A and B vaccines as part of a typical childhood immunization schedule. Babies should receive their first hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth and the hepatitis A vaccine before the age of two.
When it comes to hepatitis, studies suggest that routine universal hepatitis A vaccination in the United States prevents 259,776 infections, 4,781 hospitalizations, and 228 deaths per year. The hepatitis B vaccine prevents an estimated 38 million deaths over the lifetime of people born between 2000 and 2030 in 98 low- and middle-income countries.
The recommended HPV vaccine schedule begins later in life, with vaccination starting at age 11 or 12. Since HPV vaccines have been in use, research has shown that fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts. In addition, the HPV vaccine prevents cervical precancer.
The HPV Vaccine: A Major Breakthrough in STD Prevention
The most common STI in the United States is HPV, which causes genital warts. These painless warts are raised, flat, or cauliflower-like bumps that grow on the penis and around the vagina and anus. However, most people with HPV do not know they have it and never develop symptoms.
Whether or not you have symptoms, you can acquire or transmit the virus through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It also spreads via skin-to-skin contact during sex.
Although HPV usually goes away without causing any health problems, the virus can cause cellular changes that can lead to cancer years later. In fact, it is the primary cause of cervical cancer, linked to more than 311,000 cervical cancer deaths globally every year. It is also a primary cause of anal cancer in men who have sex with men. Additionally, it can lead to cancer of the penis, back of the throat, base of the tongue, and tonsils.
The good news is that when you ask, “What STDs have vaccines?” HPV is one of the answers. First recommended in 2006, the HPV vaccine represents a major breakthrough in preventing not only genital warts but also the cell changes that can lead to various types of cancer.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has licensed three HPV vaccines:
- 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9)
- Quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil)
- Bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix)
However, since 2016, only Gardasil-9 is available in the United States. The HPV vaccine offers protection against the following nine strains of the virus:
- HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cervical cancers
- HPV types 6 and 11, which cause most genital warts
- HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, which can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, penis, or throat
HPV vaccine efficacy is extremely high. If you receive the vaccine before exposure to HPV, it is 97% effective in preventing cervical cancer and nearly 100% effective in preventing external genital warts. However, it doesn't protect against all HPV types, which makes routine Pap/HPV tests essential for cervical cancer prevention.
HPV Vaccination Schedule and Recommendations
The HPV vaccine consists of a series of shots. All people ages 9 to 45 can get the vaccine, but it may provide less benefit after age 26. Preteens (both boys and girls) should get vaccinated at age 11 or 12, so they have full protection before they become sexually active. People older than 26 who want the HPV vaccine should talk to their doctor about the potential benefits.
The recommended vaccination schedule depends on your age.
- People aged 9-14 need two doses, with the second 6 to 12 months after the first.
- People aged 15-45 need three shots. They should get the second shot two months after the first, and the third shot four months after the second.
You may be wondering, “Will the HPV vaccine work after infection?” While the HPV vaccine can't protect you against strains of the virus that you've already been exposed to, it will protect you against other strains.
HPV Vaccination Rates and Challenges
Vaccination rates have been increasing since the HPV vaccine received FDA approval in 2006. As of 2020, the HPV vaccine was part of routine immunization schedules in 111 nations, mostly high- and middle-income countries.
However, in 2020, only 59% of teens aged 13 to 17 in the United States were fully vaccinated. The HPV vaccine faces several challenges in achieving more widespread acceptance. For starters, it is a vaccine against an STD but is most effective when given to preteens. That leads some parents to think it is inappropriate for children.
In addition, misinformation on social media is causing more parents to decline the HPV vaccine over safety concerns.
Hepatitis Vaccines: Shielding the Liver From STDs
Hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver, whether the result of infection or other causes. When people hear the term “hepatitis,” however, they tend to think of the viruses that often cause this condition. While several hepatitis viruses exist, only hepatitis A and B have vaccines.
Hepatitis A and B have identical symptoms, which include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, aches and pains, and dark-colored urine. Both types of infection can also cause acute liver failure and even death. Neither virus has a specific treatment or cure.
However, hepatitis A is more often an acute illness that stays in the body for a short time, with full recovery typically occurring within several weeks. The main transmission pathway is the fecal-oral route, which may occur through person-to-person contact or by consuming contaminated food or water. Poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene are common causes.
Hepatitis B is more likely to cause long-term complications that persist after the initial infection, especially for children. Chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer in the world. You can transmit or acquire the virus through body fluids such as blood, saliva, and semen. Hepatitis B can spread through sexual activity, as well as by sharing drug needles or razors, through contact with open wounds, or via birth to an infected mother.
Hepatitis Vaccine Availability and Administration
What STDs have vaccines? Hepatitis A and B vaccines are available for all ages. They have been part of the routine childhood immunization schedule in the United States since 1994. Vaccination guidelines are as follows:
- Children need two doses, with the first at 12 to 23 months of age and the second at least six months later.
- Older children and adolescents (aged 2 to 18) who were not vaccinated should get the vaccine.
- Adults who were not vaccinated can also get the vaccine.
- All newborns should receive the vaccine as soon as possible after birth, followed by two additional doses at the recommended intervals.
- All children up to age 18, all adults aged 19 to 59 years old, and adults 60 years or older with hepatitis B risk factors should also get the vaccine if they did not receive it previously.
In addition to protecting you from the uncomfortable effects of acute infection, hepatitis vaccination can protect you against more long-term dangers, including liver cancer, liver failure, and cirrhosis of the liver caused by the virus.
Chronic hepatitis B affects approximately 296 million people, and the virus contributes to an estimated 820,000 deaths a year. Although chronic infections in children have dropped since the pre-vaccine era, work remains to be done in terms of global vaccination efforts, especially in low- to middle-income countries and high-risk populations, including the following:
- People who do not know they are infected
- Homeless or displaced populations (such as refugee camps)
- Communities lacking the infrastructure for widespread vaccination, testing, or treatment
Future Prospects: Developing Vaccines for Other STDs
If you're asking, “What STDs have vaccines?” you probably also want to know about the prospects for vaccines against STDs like HIV and herpes.
Vaccinations play an essential role in the relationship between public health and STDs. However, progress in developing new vaccines against STDs is slow due to political constraints, socioeconomic factors, and vaccine research challenges. Challenges in STD vaccine development include the following:
- Viral Diversity: Some viruses have multiple variants, which can make finding an effective vaccine more difficult. For example, HPV has 150 strains, at least 12 of which are high-risk. The antigenic variation of the human immunodeficiency virus has hindered HIV vaccine efforts.
- Viral Mutation: Viruses can mutate, making it harder to produce universal vaccines. While some viruses change slowly or to a minor degree, others mutate dramatically. For example, scientists must update the flu vaccine every year to keep up with the changing influenza virus.
- Economic Challenges: Vaccine development is difficult and costly, and not all policymakers prioritize STD vaccine development.
- Public Health Priorities: As diseases become more treatable, there may be less interest in developing a vaccine. For example, improvements in HIV treatment and prevention have made some question the importance of HIV vaccine development.
Research Is Ongoing To Develop More STD Vaccines
Research into STD vaccines is continuing despite the challenges. Specifically, the following vaccines offer promise:
- Chlamydia: An effective vaccine against genital chlamydia is increasingly likely, as the first vaccine candidate is in Phase I trials.
- Syphilis: Thanks to new technological approaches, we may see viable syphilis vaccine candidates in the future.
- HSV: Herpes simplex virus research clinical trials have produced promising results suggesting that an effective HSV vaccine may soon become a reality.
- HIV: Vaccine candidates against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are under development.
- Gonorrhea: An existing vaccine against meningococcal disease has potential cross-protection against the bacteria that causes gonorrhea.
If You're Not Sure, Get Tested With Rapid STD Testing
Now that you know what STDs have vaccines, you've probably realized that many more STDs don't. In addition, since many infections are asymptomatic, you may not even realize you have one. To know whether you have hepatitis, gonorrhea, or another STD, you need to get tested.
At Rapid STD Testing, we offer confidential testing at over 2,500 centers nationwide. Simply order a single rapid STD test or a comprehensive 10-panel STD test online, visit a testing center, and get your results in one to two days. Contact us today to schedule a test, or read our blog to learn about sexual health and vaccines.