HPV vaccination recommendations in the United States changed in October, 2018. Previously, the FDA had approved the vaccine up to the age of 26. Starting in fall of 2018 the HPV vaccine is approved for people up to age 45.
How do I know if I need the vaccine?
Generally, most people should get vaccinated: if you have sexy encounters with others or plan to have sexy encounters with others, you should get vaccinated! HPV is linked to several cancers – cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, and mouth and throat cancers – and to genital warts. HPV is primarily spread through sexual contact, but it’s important to remember that skin-to-skin contact, not just genital contact, counts, too. There have been documented cases of HPV transmission in people who have never been sexually active, but those are rare. We know a lot of queer people have super creative sex that isn’t always genitally focused – we want to protect all of your body parts, not just your genitals!
Here’s the info deep dive:
- some countries vaccinate after age 45
- Gardasil 9 protects against HPV strains 16, 18, 6, 11, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58
- HPV 16 and 18 cause
- 73% of cervical cancers
- 86% of anal cancers
- significant amounts of cancers in the mouth and throat, the vagina, and the penis
- HPV 31, 33, 45, 52, 58 cause
- 16% of cervical cancers
- Together, the strains of HPV that Gardasil 9 protects against cause almost 90% of cervical cancers
- HPV 6 and 11 cause
- 90% of warts of the bum and genitals
- HPV 16 and 18 cause
- HPV vaccination is 97% effective in preventing cervical cancer if people are vaccinated prior to HPV exposure
- HPV vaccination prevents 1 out of every 2 anal cancers even in people who have already started having sexy time with other people
- HPV vaccination protects against pre-cancerous cell changes that can require invasive, painful, and expensive treatments (like biopsies and cervical LEEPs)
- Less than 1 in every 1000 people vaccinated experience serious side effects
- The most common side effects are redness, soreness, and swelling at the site of the injection
- Some people pass out after vaccinations, sit down and chill for at least 15 minutes after your shot
- Even if you are over the age of 45, you should consider vaccination especially if
- you have had limited to no sexual partners in the past and plan to have more in the future
- you have a compromised immune system (HIV positive, on chemotherapy)
- you have a partner with any of the above
- Your insurance might not pay for the vaccine yet
- QueerDoc recommends getting vaccinated, unless you haven’t been sexually active with other people and don’t plan on ever being sexally active with other people
- Getting vaccinated before having sex with others offers the most protection, so do it before if you can!
- If you have a cervix, it is still important to get screened for cervical cancer (usually with a Pap test and/or HPV DNA test.) Although there is an anal HPV screening test in development, it is not widely available, and may not be covered by insurance. If Paps are difficult for you, there are self-administered test kits available.
QueerDoc can answer your questions about HPV and the HPV vaccine. We can also order it sent to your local pharmacy, so you can get vaccinated. Just schedule and appointment for STD testing
Bhatia N, Lynde C, Vender R, Bourcier M. Understanding Genital Warts: Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, and Burden of Disease of Human Papillomavirus. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2013;17(6_suppl):S47-S54. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24388558/
Petca, A., Borislavschi, A., Zvanca, M.E., Petca, R., Sandru, F., & Dumitrascu, M.C. (2020). Non-sexual HPV transmission and role of vaccination for a better future (Review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 20, 186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7579832/
Gardasil Package Insert: https://www.fda.gov/media/90064/download
Reviewed May, 2021