Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide, affecting both men and
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost every sexually active person will get the virus at some point in their lives.
Don’t worry; HPV isn’t an unstoppable force. The HPV vaccine was approved in 2006. Since then, HPV types that commonly cause cancer and genital warts dropped 81% in adult women, and 88% for teen girls. Yet some wonder: Will the HPV vaccine work after infection?
This is a complex question that requires further examination of HPV, vaccinations, and STDs. Sexual health is difficult to navigate, but staying informed is the responsible thing to do. Another part of being a responsible, sexually active adult is testing regularly. Staying on top of your sexual health is easier than ever with same-day STD testing.
The Science Behind HPV and Its Vaccine
Most of the time, when you begin receiving vaccines, you are too young to wonder how they work. As a child, you just know you need shots to avoid getting sick. As adults or young people become sexually active, curiosity is only natural.
When you hear how common HPV is, you might immediately feel alarmed. Many people wonder how effective the vaccine is if people still get HPV so frequently.
What Is HPV, and How Does It Spread?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection spread through sexual activity. The virus infects the epithelial cells on your body’s mucosal surfaces. You can contact HPV in your throat, anus, or genitals. When it infects you, it produces HPV proteins. Most of the time, your immune system does its job and eliminates this threat.
However, some strains of HPV persist, mutating and causing real damage to your body.
There are many misconceptions about HPV. For example, some wonder: Does HPV cause recurrent yeast infections? The answer is no, but some strains of HPV are responsible for cervical cancer. This is the most common cancer among women, with 4,000 women dying from it every year.
HPV spreads so easily because people often don’t know they have it. It spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact that occurs during sex. Unless you and your partner get regular tests, you might never know when you’re spreading HPV.
Components of the HPV Vaccine
There are over 150 HPV types, and the HPV vaccine tackles the most dangerous. The vaccine stimulates your body by injecting virus-like particles into it. While they aren’t infections, they will prompt your body to produce antibodies that bind to the virus if it encounters it, preventing it from infecting your cells.
The United States uses the Gardasil 9 vaccine, which prevents nine types of HPV. This vaccine is approved for everyone over the age of nine and gives your body a chance to safely build immunity to the virus.
Efficacy of HPV Vaccine Post-Infection
Will the HPV vaccine work after infection? If you already have HPV, a vaccine will not treat it. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it. The HPV vaccine protects against several types of HPV, which are as follows:
- Type 6
- Type 11
- Type 16
- Type 18
- Type 31
- Type 33
- Type 45
- Type 52
- Type 58
So, even if you have HPV type 31, for instance, this vaccine will still protect you against the other eight. HPV types 16 and 18 cause 80% of cervical cancers, while types 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital warts cases. The other types the HPV vaccine prevents can also lead to various cancers. It is vital to prevent as many of them as possible, regardless of infection status.
Like most vaccines, the HPV vaccine uses a schedule of treatment. This means you’ll take several doses of it over time. According to medical professionals’ recommendations, the ideal age to begin receiving the vaccine is 11, though you can start as early as nine. If you start the process before 15, you only need two vaccine doses.
However, since this is a newer vaccine, many people start later in life. Those who start after 15 need three doses for full protection. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only suggests giving this vaccine to adults under 27. While the drug is approved for adults through 45, most doctors will assess the need for the HPV vaccine in adults older than 26 on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re in the younger age range, the immunization schedule is worth going through. The Gardasil 9 vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing cervical and vaginal precancers caused by HPV.
You can contract a variety of strains of HPV from sexual activity. While the HPV vaccine can’t protect you against all of them, it can protect you from the most dangerous among them. The vaccine efficacy for one strain is not weakened if you’re infected first with another.
However, the HPV vaccine can’t do all the work for you. Combining frequent STD testing with the HPV vaccine is the most effective method of prevention. You can use a 10-panel STD test to check for the most common STDs at once, including HPV.
Should You Get Vaccinated?
Deciding whether to get a vaccine is always a personal decision between you and your healthcare provider. However, when it comes to the HPV vaccine, its benefits largely outweigh the potential side effects.
Not only can the vaccine reduce your chances of getting dangerous HPV types, but it can also provide widespread, long-lasting protection to the public. The more people who work toward HPV prevention, the less it can spread. This effect is commonly referred to as herd immunity or herd protection. According to a 2019 study from the National Cancer Institute, eight years after the start of HPV vaccination programs in 14 high-income countries, diagnoses of anogenital warts dropped by 31% in women aged 25-29.
Over time, herd immunity can continue to prevent anogenital warts and preventable deaths occurring from cervical cancer.
While the list of benefits is long, the list of side effects is minimal. The most common side effect is short-term soreness at the injection site. Some also experienced swelling. In much fewer cases, patients had a fever after their injection.
There are plenty of infections we can’t prevent and immunizations we have yet to discover, such as immunization for Hepatitis C. We should take advantage of those available to us.
Note that the vaccine doesn’t replace Pap/HPV tests. You should continuously test for the sake of your health. Rapid STD tests are available to provide you with the answers you need quickly. If you test positive for HPV, don’t panic. Coping with any STD diagnosis is difficult, but it’s your next steps that are important.
You should contact anyone you have been recently sexually active with. They should get tested, too. Whether you are vaccinated or not, open communication about sexual health with your partners is essential to prevent further spreading.
Get Rapid Answers With Rapid STD Testing
Will the HPV vaccine work after infection? Yes, it prevents other strains of HPV.
STD testing may feel embarrassing initially, but the more we defy this stigma, the more sexually healthy our world can be. The process can also seem overwhelming, but it’s easier in this day and age than ever.
With Rapid STD Testing, you can send in your test from the comfort of your own home. Your sample will go to a lab, which will contact you with online results within 24-48 hours. You can also visit any local clinic or talk to your healthcare professional about other testing options. Protect yourself and others by getting tested today.