There are two cervical cancer vaccines Gardasil® and Cervarix® which guard against about 70% of the HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer as well as other cancers in men and women. In Australia, only the Gardasil® vaccine is offered.
Both vaccines will prevent up to 70% of cervical cancers as well as some other less common genital cancers in women, including vaginal and vulval. The vaccine also helps protect men against penile cancer and anal cancer as well as genital warts in both men and women.
It also guards against head and neck cancers in both men and women. It is for this reason that since 2013, Australia now vaccinates both girls and boys. The vaccine is most effective if given before the start of sexual activity. It’s currently free for girls and boys in Year 7 as part of the school-based National Immunisation Program. In 2013 and 2014 only, the vaccine will also be free for boys in Year 9 as part of a national catch-up initiative.
Males and females outside of these ages may still benefit from the vaccine and should speak to their doctors to see if it’s right for them. As the vaccine won’t prevent all cervical cancers, it’s important to remember that, vaccinated or not, a Pap test every 2 years is still vitally important for all women, aged 18 to 70, who’ve ever been sexually active.
Both vaccines guard against HPV types 16 and 18 which are responsible for causing 70-80% of cervical cancers. Other types of HPV can also cause genital warts such as types 6 and 11.
Gardasil® protects against two of the cancer-causing strains of HPV and the two that are responsible for causing genital warts. Gardasil is recommended for girls from 9 years of age to young women up to 26 years. It guards against the HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.
Even for those who are already sexually active, it would be unlikely that you would have been exposed to all the types of HPV the vaccine guards against, so it can still guard against those viruses that you have not yet been exposed to.
Cervarix® protects against HPV types 16 and 18 only and is used to vaccinate both young girls from 10 years of age to women up to 45 years
In this short video Professor Ian Frazer AC (co-inventor of the vaccine) talks about the vaccine:
Read more about the Gardasil® vaccination program for boys and girls in Australia or talk to your doctor.