New vaccine offers protection against HPV for women

Suzanne Starheim

Gardisil vaccine being highly recommended

While most 18-year-old women are excited to take their first steps on a college campus, some are simply excited to see another day — even if it only involves more hospital visits.

They are battling cervical cancer that may have been caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

August was National Immunization Awareness Month, and Gardasil, a vaccine against HPV, is being recommended to young women more than ever before.

Jennifer D’Abreau, a university physician, said University Health Services strongly encourages the vaccination of all females ages 9 to 26.

According to Gardasil’s official Web site, the vaccine works even when given to a woman before there is any contact with HPV strains.

HPV affects both females and males, and can be transferred from any type of sexual contact with an infected person. Sexual intercourse is not necessary for the virus to be transferred from one partner to the other.

There are approximately 6 million new cases of HPV in the United States each year, and it is estimated that about 74 percent of these cases occur in people ages 15 to 24, according to the Gardasil Web site.

Gardasil, which was introduced in 2007, protects against four strains of HPV– two of which cause up to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and two that are known to cause up to 90 percent of genital warts cases.

“Gardasil is just one way that young women can effectively protect themselves from getting cervical cancer,” Debra Evans, adult nurse practitioner of Sharon Regional Health Systems, said.

Some students are considering the vaccine.

“Gardasil is something I would really consider because of my age and the harm that can come from certain types of HPV,” freshman chemistry major Alicia Nation said.

Evans said the decision to get vaccinated should be an individual one that should be discussed with a health care provider.

Contact features correspondent Suzi Starheim at [email protected].